A glass sculpture by artist Gabriel Rico on view at Zona Maco art fair this weekend shattered to pieces when Mexican art critic Avelina Lésper tried to place a soda can on one of its protruding stone elements. According to a statement released by Galería OMR, which was exhibiting the work in its booth, Lésper planned to take a picture of the Coca-Cola can resting on top of the conceptual sculpture in an attempt to critique it.
Lésper has since apologized for the incident and insisted it was accidental, but she has not denied her critical views of the piece. In a video produced for Milenio, the Mexican newspaper where she is a columnist, Lésper said the work collapsed when she tried to approach the empty soda can to the stone element.
“In that moment, as though it had heard my commentary and sensed what I thought about it, the work shattered,” she said.
As reported by Milenio, another artist present at the scene, Pavel Égüez, defended Lésper’s version of the story. “Avelina didn’t touch it,” he told Milenio.
“Although it seems to have been accidental and is irrelevant as to how it happened, the action of Ms. Lésper of getting too close to the work of art to put a can of soda on it and take a picture to make a criticism, had undoubtedly caused the destruction, and is above all, a huge lack of professionalism and respect,” said Galería OMR in its statement.
When a gallery representative approached Lésper and asked if she could pay for the damaged work, which was valued at $20,000, the critic said she offered to repair it herself or create an identical sculpture instead.
“This is something that happens all the time with these kinds of objects. They’re thrown in the trash, people eat them … it’s not a tragedy,” she explained in her video, apparently evoking Maurizio Cattelan’s duct-taped banana at Art Basel Miami Beach last year, which was eaten by a performance artist.
“Give me the objects and images and measurements of the work and I’ll return it to you,” Lésper said she told the gallery. “That’s the nature of these objects, you can make them again.”
The demolished sculpture, “Nimble and sinister tricks (To be preserved with out scandal and corruption) I” (2018), bears a curious resemblance to Marcel Duchamp’s seminal glass work “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)” (1915-1923). Duchamp’s sculpture also suffered damage when it was shattered during transit; ten years later, the artist repaired the broken fragments himself and found that he enjoyed the visible cracks in the mended surface.
Lésper claims she suggested a similar fate for Rico’s sculpture. “I told them they should show it as is; it’s part of the work’s provenance,” she said in her video.
“We do not understand how an alleged professional art critic destroyed a work by one of the most outstanding artists of the moment. Gabriel Rico was selected for the Venice Biennale last year, within the official selection, with pieces in the Giardini and Arsenale,” read Galería OMR’s statement, shared in a press packet along with professional portraits of the artist and images of his past solo exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum. “He is one of OMR’s most sought-after artists by collectors and institutions of the moment.”
Correction 2/11/2020 11:53am EST: An earlier version of this article misspelled Lésper’s surname. We regret the error.