x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Accidently damaging artworks can be costly – and humiliating

For art lovers, there's nothing more exciting than coming face-to-face with works of art, but nose-to-nose it a different matter.

For art lovers like myself, there's nothing more exciting than coming face-to-face with your favourite works. There's nothing worse however, than coming nose-to-nose with them, as a close friend of mine recently discovered.

Upon paying a visit to the Opera Gallery in the Dubai International Financial Centre, said friend (who shall remain nameless) made a beeline for the collection of oil paintings by impressionists such as Renoir and Monet adorning the panelled walls.

The atmosphere was one you would expect of any sophisticated soirée: the crowd was cool, the nibbles minuscule and the red carpet thick.

Rolled out especially for the occasion, ladies in Louboutins navigated the rug much as they would a polo pitch: sinking and wobbling all the way. Men, conversely, did the soft-shoe shuffle, gliding effortlessly through the colourful halls. My friend was doing much the same and, following an arduous journey from work to the gallery, as he spied a rare Degas across the room, things appeared to be looking up. That was until he stopped looking down.

Striding purposefully, eyes locked on the target, he suddenly found himself airborne and hurtling towards the unprotected canvas. Arms extended, he somehow regained his balance and catastrophe was avoided with centimetres to spare.

The saboteur responsible for this fateful art trip? A humble plug, normally on full display like a modern installation, but on this occasion hidden under a mole mound of carpet.

A close call indeed, but my friend must try harder in the future if he's to enter the big league of motor-skill mishaps.

Last year, an art lover visiting New York's Metropolitan Museum left red-faced and nearly $100 million (Dh363.3m) lighter as she "lost her balance" and ripped a six-inch tear in a Picasso painting.

One saving grace: the tear occurred in the lower portion of the canvas and no future admirer of the Spanish painter's work need ever know.

Equally as impressive is the museum-goer in Cambridge, UK, who tripped over his shoelace and smashed three 17th-century Chinese porcelain vases from the Qing Dynasty.

First prize, however, goes to the child who made his dislike for minimalist sculpture quite clear to his parents by vomiting on Carl Andre's Venus Forge at the family-friendly Tate Modern in London. Let's hope it wasn't the same piece that sold at Sotheby's in New York a year later for $2.6 million.

Well, art is supposed to make you feel something positive, so they say – even if that is positively unwell.