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11 of the Most Shocking Instances of Tourists Damaging Artworks Because of a SELFIE!

Introduction

Tourists have a bad reputation throughout the world, and many times it is not without a reason. Some are mean, insensitive, and downright dumb. They have caused a lot of damage to precious art pieces being disrespectful, drunk, and careless. One such act has been the destruction of artefacts and/or art has been the act of clicking selfies near artworks that have caused irreversible damage in many cases. In this article, we will find out 11 of the most shocking instances of tourists damaging artworks because of a SELFIE!

1. Tourists’ Selfie Mishap Leads to Damage of Goya and Dalí Artworks in Yekaterinburg, Russia

On October 27, 2018, while trying to take a selfie with famous artists Salvador Dalí and Francisco Goya, a group of women visiting the International Arts Center on Main Avenue in Yekaterinburg, Russia, unintentionally caused damage. A wall was knocked over as a result of the incident, shattering the glass and frame of Goya’s artwork and damaging Dalí’s piece’s protective glass and frame in addition to the artwork itself. Every moment of the incident was recorded on camera. CNN stated that the Yekaterinburg police department declined to file a criminal case against the women, despite the incident causing widespread dismay.

artwork-damaged-selfie-3
Courtesy:  MIA RUSSIA
artwork-damaged-selfie-1
Courtesy:  MIA RUSSIA

2. UK Family’s Photo Op Disrespects History: Infant Posed Inside 800-Year-Old Coffin Causes Damage

This may not technically be selfie-related damage, however, it was still a photograph that caused all the problems. This is the case of a UK family in 2017 who defied museum regulations and common sense by posing their infant inside an antiquated item for a photo op. The family placed the infant inside an 800-year-old sandstone coffin, which caused it to collapse off its pedestal, according to Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. The incident only cost roughly $130 in repairs, but the disrespect for historical preservation that was shown to get a good picture is invaluable.

A chunk of an ancient coffin at Prittlewell Priory Museum broke off when a couple attempted to take a photo of a their child inside of it. Courtesy of Prittlewell Priory Museum.

3. Selfie Gone Wrong: Tourist Damages Yayoi Kusama Artwork Worth $800,000 in DC Exhibition

In February 2017, a visitor to Washington, DC, went too far with a selfie and seriously destroyed an artwork on display at the Infinite Mirrors exhibition by the renowned artist Yayoi Kusama. This is surely one of the most sought-after artists and exhibitions in the world, with every inch of the space being photograph-worthy, but some tourists take that for granted. According to The New York Times, a visitor damaged a glass pumpkin at the Hirshhorn Museum, incurring an estimated $800,000 worth of damage. As a result, the display was closed for three days.

Kusama Infinity Room Reopens at Hirshhorn Exhibition After Sculpture Damage - The New York Times
Kusama Infinity Room Reopens at Hirshhorn Exhibition After Sculpture Damage – Courtesy: The New York Times

4. Viral Video Shows Tourist Toppling $200,000 Art Installation at The 14th Factory in Los Angeles

This particular damage was captured on camera and the video is there for anybody to see on YouTube, it even went viral and received millions of views. The incident happened at The 14th Factory in Los Angeles, which is home to an exhibit by artist Simon Birch. “Hypercaine,” the installation’s name, showcased a collection of exquisite crowns arranged on pedestals. In the footage, a woman is seen stooping to take a picture in front of the artwork. She then falls and topples a whole column of pedestals, reportedly costing $200,000 in damage.

5. Visitor’s Photo Mishap Causes Damage to 18th-Century Statue at Portugal’s National Museum of Ancient Art

When trying to take a picture of another piece of art in November 2016, a visitor to Portugal’s National Museum of Ancient Art unintentionally damaged an 18th-century statue. The statue was knocked over onto the ground because the visitor leaned too close to it. The impacted piece of art was an 18th-century painted statue of Saint Michael the Archangel. At the time of the occurrence, Jose Alberto Seabra Carvalho, the deputy director of the museum, said that the statue had suffered substantial damage, mostly to its wings, one arm, and mantle. He did, however, reassure that although the damage was great, it was repairable.

This statue of Saint Michael at the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon, Portugal was knocked over and irreparably damaged by a tourist attempting to take a selfie. The statue dates back to the early 1700s. Photo by Daniel Villafruela/WikiCommons
This statue of Saint Michael at the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon, Portugal was knocked over and irreparably damaged by a tourist attempting to take a selfie. The statue dates back to the early 1700s. Photo by Daniel Villafruela/WikiCommons

6. Selfie Mishap: Tourists Knock Off Crown from 18th-Century Statue of Hercules in Cremona, Italy

The crown atop an 18th-century marble statue of Hercules and the city’s coat of arms was knocked off in 2015 by two tourists taking selfies while in the Italian city of Cremona. Since 1962, the artwork has been placed beneath Loggia dei Militi’s portico.

Tourists posing for selfie wreck 18th-century Italian monument
Tourists posing for selfie wreck 18th-century Italian monument| courtesy: The Telegraph

7. Photo Mishap at Brera Academy: Student Damages 19th-Century Statue in Milan

In March 2014, a student visiting the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan inadvertently caused damage to a 19th-century statue while attempting to take a photo. The student jumped onto the lap of the statue, known as The Drunken Satyr or Barberini Faun, resulting in the statue’s leg being broken. The affected artwork was identified as a 19th-century copy of the original Hellenistic-era piece. As evident from the images, the statue’s leg sustained severe damage, requiring significant surgical intervention for restoration. Fortunately, since it was a copy, the decision was made to amputate the damaged limb rather than attempting extensive restoration efforts.

Academy of Fine Arts of Brera: Student breaks statue 'taking ...
Academy of Fine Arts of Brera: Student breaks statue ‘taking … Courtesy: Metro

8. Austrian Tourist Breaks Toes Off Canova’s Statue While Posing for Selfie in Italy

An Austrian visitor while posing for a picture with Antonio Canova’s 200-year-old plaster cast replica of Paolina Bonapart in the well-known Gipsoteca Museum in northern Italy broke three toes off the statue. A security camera saw him jumping onto the base of the monument, accidentally breaking its toes in the process. Three of the statue’s toes shattered, and there may have been other, as-yet-undetermined damage to the sculpture’s base, when the man, who was traveling with eight other Austrian visitors, strayed off to snap a selfie “sprawled over the statue.”

Tourist gets off on the wrong foot, breaks 200-year-old statue's toes in photo attempt
Tourist gets off on the wrong foot, breaks 200-year-old statue’s toes in photo attempt |Courtesy: WBRZ

9. Visitor Accidentally Damages 19th-Century Totem Pole at University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology

In 2018, a visitor to the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology inadvertently caused damage to a 19th-century totem pole by resting on it while snapping a picture.

10. Concerns Raised Over Risk to Indigenous Rock Art in Carnarvon National Park from Unlawful Selfies

This behaviour of endangering artworks and artefacts hasn’t simply stopped at museums or historical sites, but even at certain parks.  A Senior Ranger at the Carnarvon National Park in Australia has raised concerns about the risk posed to the vivid and culturally significant rock art in Carnarvon National Park by visitors seeking to capture unlawful selfies for social media. The park’s rock art sites hold international importance, offering a unique opportunity to appreciate and understand Indigenous culture. Despite regulations prohibiting access to Restricted Areas, some visitors disregard these rules, posing in front of ancient rock art or even touching it.

Selfish selfies put Carnarvon rock art at risk | Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland
Selfish selfies put Carnarvon rock art at risk | Department of Environment, Science and Innovation, Queensland

11.American Exchange Student Stuck Inside Sculpture’s Vulva in Germany Prompts Emergency Response

An American exchange student in Germany got more than he bargained for when he ventured inside a massive sculpture, likely in pursuit of a whimsical social media post featuring artistic female anatomy. The student ended up firmly stuck inside the vulva of the sculpture, prompting a call to emergency services. The intrepid fellow needed professional assistance after getting a bit too adventurous with a statue.

US exchange student gets stuck inside vagina sculpture | Daily Mail Online
US exchange student gets stuck inside vagina sculpture | Daily Mail Online

Keeping the current trend of selfie-taking visitors in mind, The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has restricted the use of monopods, tripods, and spotlights on the premises and outlawed selfie sticks at 46 museums throughout the country. The decision is intended to protect the antiques that are on display from any harm. These regulations are especially rigorous at historical sites with museums next to them that display items that have been excavated. The Taj Museum in Agra, along with the museums in Konark and Hampi, Mumtaz Mahal, Swatantrata Sangram Sanghralaya, Purana Killa, and the Indian War Memorial Museum in Delhi, are among the affected museums. While museums represent many enchanting tales of our past and present, these tragic stories have also added a new flavour to the repertoire of narratives each historical site/museum/exhibit presents.

Feature Image: The “Museum Destruction Selfie” display at the Museum of Selfies. Courtesy: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

References:

  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/tourists-break-piece-off-priceless-statue-of-the-two-hercules-in-italy-while-trying-to-take-a-selfie-10223773.html
  2. https://www.businessinsider.com/worst-tourists-2017-2017-12?IR=T#a-man-kicked-and-destroyed-a-stalagmite-that-was-thousands-of-years-old-in-a-cave-in-china-24
  3. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/eehs-2022-0008/html?lang=en
  4. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/art-selfie-fails-of-2018-1416028
  5. https://scroll.in/latest/842856/selfie-sticks-are-now-banned-at-46-site-museums-photos-taken-for-commercial-use-will-be-charged
  6. https://www.des.qld.gov.au/our-department/news-media/mediareleases/2023/selfish-selfies-put-carnarvon-rock-art-at-risk
  7. https://www.sartle.com/blog/post/from-botched-restoration-to-selfie-destruction-5-of-the-worst-art-fails

11 of the Most Shocking Instances of Tourists Damaging Artworks Because of a SELFIE!

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