MEXICO CITY — An art critic has destroyed a contemporary piece at Mexico’s premiere art fair, setting off a spirited debate about what constitutes art.
Critic Avelina Lesper said she accidentally shattered the installation Saturday at the Zona Maco art fair in Mexico City when she placed an empty soda can near it to express her disdain for the piece: a sheet of glass with a stone, soccer ball and other random objects suspended inside.
The display was by Mexican artist Gabriel Rico, who contrasts objects made by humans, such as tennis balls, with objects found in nature, such as feathers and rocks.
“It was like the work heard my comment and felt what I thought of it,” Lesper said in a video statement for Milenio, a Mexican media group that publishes her columns. “The work shattered into pieces and collapsed and fell on the floor.”
Lesper said she was then told the piece was valued at $20,000.
Accident or not, the gallery displaying the work criticized Lesper’s behavior as unprofessional.
“Lesper coming too close to the work to place a soda can on it and take a picture as criticism without a doubt caused the destruction,” OMR gallery said in a statement via Instagram.
The gallery said the critic’s behavior showed an “enormous lack of professionalism and respect.”
OMR said Rico’s work is highly sought by collectors and art institutions at the moment.
Alfonso Miranda, director of the Soumaya art museum in Mexico, described the incident via Twitter as a “tragedy.”
Others took to social media to applaud the destruction as a performance piece, and to pan the sale of art that consists of used and found objects.
Lesper said she suggested the gallery leave the piece shattered, to show its evolution. When they rejected that idea, she said she offered to repair it.
The gallery said it would get in touch with the artist before announcing next steps.
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