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Remains of the exhibit at the OMR Gallery in Mexico City. Remains of the exhibit at the OMR Gallery in Mexico City.

Though no fan of sculpture, critic denies smashing it to pieces

She claims the piece shattered spontaneously when she placed an empty can of Coke on it

An avant-garde work exhibited at one of the Mexico City’s most important annual art shows may or may not have been intentionally destroyed by a disapproving critic last weekend, though a number of observers believe it was her intention to do so.

Gabriel Rico’s sculpture entitled Nimble and Sinister Tricks (To be Preserved with Out Scandal and Corruption) broke into innumerable pieces at the Zona Maco Fair in Mexico City on Saturday. Controversial art critic Avelina Lésper was very close to the piece when it shattered, and she is not a fan of the sculpture.

The newspaper Milenio reported Lésper denied breaking the sculpture and trying to run off afterward. She claimed a glass sheet that was part of the piece shattered when she placed an empty Coke can atop one of the stone elements that stands upon the glass.

“I had an empty can of soda. I tried to put it on one of the stones but the work exploded. It was as if the work heard my comment and felt what I thought of it.”

Artist Pavel Égüez, who was with Lésper at the time, stated “… the glass the objects supported exploded. Avelina did not touch it. The glass was too thin.”

The art exhibit before Saturday's incident and Lésper.
The art exhibit before Saturday’s incident and Lésper. Did she or didn’t she?

On Sunday, La Jornada reported that Lésper admitted to breaking the artwork by accident and putting a Coke can on one of the stones to show her rejection of the piece’s premise.

According to artnet.com one day later, the glass shattered when the critic put a can of Coke on it.

The OMR Gallery, where the piece was exhibited, issued a statement expressing its dismay, stating “We don’t understand how an alleged professional art critic could destroy a work.”

“Despite the fact that it appears to have been accidental … Lésper’s getting too close to the work to put a can on top of it and take a photo … which undoubtedly caused the damage, [demonstrates] an enormous lack of professionalism and respect.”

Lésper has been denounced by museum directors, galleries and others over the incident. Alfonso Miranda Márquez, director of the Soumaya Museum, accused her of trying to escape the scene, calling the incident a “tragedy” and calling Lésper a “pseudo and self-proclaimed art critic.”

The sculpture has been valued at US $20,000. It consists of a sheet of glass supporting a soccer ball, a tennis ball, stones and other objects. Its creator, Gabriel Rico, is an avant-garde artist whose work appeared in the 2019 Venice Biennale. The sculpture was the centerpiece of the OMR Gallery’s exhibit at the fair.

Lésper suggested that the work should be exhibited and sold as it was left, making reference to Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), which the artist declared complete after it had broken in transit.

Lésper said she did not have the resources to pay the asking price, but she offered to “repair it,” buying the exact same materials and rearranging them as Rico had done.

Lésper is a controversial art critic who is noted for her aversion to contemporary art. The incident quickly trended on social media with some defending the critic and sparked memes based on her fierce reputation.

It remains unclear if Rico will recreate the work or who will pay for it.

Sources: Milenio (sp), Artnet (en), El Universal (sp)

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