Last Friday a woman taking an adult education class at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York accidentally fell into Picasso's "The Actor," which hung there unprotected, ripping a 6 inch tear in the bottom right corner. You can read more details about the incident (and the restoration) in The New York Times HERE.
I have been to many of the world's most famous museums, including the Met, and it never ceases to amaze me how many priceless masterworks hang in these places, jammed together and unprotected, almost like sides of beef in an abattoir. Presumably, these institutions have each installed sophisticated alarm systems to deter theft. But at the same time these priceless paintings are displayed in the open air without so much as a theater rope or a plastic sneeze guard to protect them against accidents like these. Incidents such as this one must be statistically likely to recur, given how many hordes of people pass through these places every year.
The irony in this news, I suppose, is that these works remain uncovered, I presume, to allow the cognoscenti to best appreciate their brushwork and other visible aspects of these works. And yet it was precisely one such adult student, not a school kid on a field trip horsing around, who caused the damage this time.
As an aside, what does one say after you trip and fall into a $130 million Picasso, ripping a big hole in it? Do you apologize profusely, but stop short of offering to pay for repairs ("I'm terribly, terribly sorry..... Should we move on?") Or do you pretend it wasn't you ("Oh my.....! Who just did that? Was that rip already there?") Or do you nonchalantly offer to pay for any damages to be polite, knowing that you couldn't possibly afford to do so ("Of course I'll pay for any damages... Should we move on?")