One would have to hear from museum officials around the world to define the strange disease that affects a large segment of visitors to exhibitions and installations and which we will call for convenience the “St. Thomas Syndrome.” Out of a strange magnetic attraction and curiosity, the tourist on duty is unable to deprive himself of the experience of touching sculptures and paintings, he wants to feel if they are real, to feel how they are really made.
St. Thomas Syndrome also struck an American collector during the private preview of Art Wynwood, a contemporary art fair in downtown Miami. On the transparent pedestal in the center of one of the halls stood one of 799 reproductions of Jeff Koons‘ “Balloon Dog,” and the visitor couldn’t help but touch the work several times, drawn by the electric blue and rounded shapes of the faux dog made from inflatable balloons.
There are now 798 copies of “Balloon Dog,” the one on display in Miami ended up on the floor shattering into many pieces, while all around the crowd watched what remained of a work valued at $42,000.
Visitors at first thought it was a performance art piece by Jeff Koons-not present at the event-or some other artist seeking visibility. After all, we are in the city where in 2019 performance artist David Datuna ate Maurizio Cattelan’s work “Comedian,” the famous banana scotch that was on display at the Perrotin Gallery at Art Basel Miami.
Attendees at the opening stood still for a few minutes in front of the remains of the work, while museum staff tried to pick them up to prevent them from being collected (the hunt for collectors to buy the fragments has already begun) and allow the dynamics of the incident to be verified.
The good news for the museum is that the insurance company apparently will cover the damage, while for the person responsible, who knows, she might join a list of performance artists, embark on an interesting career and touch all the works of art in the world, just don’t do it too hard.