This page considers collectibles as commodities that are
It covers -
Statements by philosophers and marketers about "timeless
beauty" and "enduring value" are expressions
of hope or chutzpah that underrate the role of historical
contingency and the physical characteristics of most collectibles.
Ultimately entropy wins most battles, with artworks and
other collectibles being -
destroyed in episodes of iconoclasm
to death' through over-exposure to humans, eg abrasion
of tomb paintings by visitors to the Valley of the Kings,
fungal and other damage to cave paintings in Lascaux
and Australia's Northern Territory through humidity
destroyed, lost or damaged in war and civil disturbance,
for example the demise of the Amber Room in 1945 and
of Luca Giordano frescoes at Monte Cassino in 1944
or destroyed by vandalism and misplaced activism, eg
Toth's attack on Michelangelo's Pieta or a
suffragette's slashing of Velázquez' Rokeby
Venus in 1914
of natural disasters such as the 2002 Dresden Flood
and 1966 Florence Flood
of fires, such as the burning of Weimar's Anna Amalia
Library in 2004
or destroyed by thieves, eg paintings from the Beit
Collection at Russborough House and Munch's The
by conservators, eg Duveen's scrubbing of the Elgin
Marbles with steel wool, 'rescue' of Da Vinci's The
by indifference, eg Greece's neglect of outdoor classical
for rubbish and disposed of by cleaners (contemporary
conceptual art such as piles of bricks and cigarette
butts is a frequent casualty) or others (eg domestic
servants mistakenly using manuscripts to start a fire)
of inadequate materials and techniques, such as disintegration
of works by Schnabel and Beuys, darkening of paintings
by Maxfield Parrish.
If some collectors view fine art and other collectibles
as frozen money, conservators see them as items under
attack from time and chance ... subject to fire, flood,
humidity, crazies, clumsiness and poor workmanship.
2007 for example saw hyperbole about decomposition of
Damien Hirst's 1991 'shark in formaldehyde' work The
Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone
Living (reportedly bought by Steve Cohen from Charles
Saatchi for £6.5m).
Hirst responded that
nothing in life lasts for ever, not even art objects
When it comes to my work, lots of people think that
I use formaldehyde to preserve an artwork for posterity,
when in reality I use it to communicate an idea.
works have faded, fallen apart, been punched, dropped
or otherwise injured.
Rindy Sam for example permanently damaged a €2 million
'white on white' Cy Twombly canvas by enthusiastically
kissing it, reportedly leaving an indelible lipstick smear.
French authorities responded in 2007 by seeking a €4,500
fine. Owner Yvon Lambert - unimpressed by Sam's claim
that her kiss was "an act of love" - sought
€2 million in damages and €33,400 for restoration
The same year saw intruders broke into the Musée d'Orsay
and punch a hole in Claude Monet's 1874 Le Pont d'Argenteuil.
2006 had seen a self-proclaimed performance artist use
a hammer on Marcel Duchamp's 1917 Dada Fountain
at the Pompidou Centre. Laszlo Toth, modestly crying "I
am Jesus Christ - risen from the dead", had attacked Michelangelo's
Pietà with a hammer in 1972. Franz Weng threw
a bottle of ink at Leonardo's The Virgin and Child
with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist in the
National Gallery in London during 1962. Gerard Jan van
Bladeren attacked Barnett Newman's Who’s Afraid of
Red, Yellow, and Blue III at the Stedelijk Museum
in 1986. In 1975 Wilhelmus de Rijk used a breadknife to
slash Rembrandt's The Night Watch in the Rijksmuseum.
Ten years later an identified man set fire to Rubens'
portrait of King Philip IV of Spain in the Zurich Kunsthaus.
Valentine Contrel used a pair of scissors on Ingres' The
Sistine Chapel in the Louvre in 1907. Robert Cambridge
fired a sawn-off shotgun at Leonardo's The Virgin
and the Child with Saint Anne and John The Baptist
in the National Gallery in London in 1987.
A year later self-described "psychologically disturbed"
Hans-Joachim Bohlmann sprayed Dürer's Mary as Grieving
Mother and the Paumgartner Altar in Munich's
Alte Pinakothek with sulfuric acid from a champagne bottle.
He had earlier attacked van der Helst's 1648 Militia
Banquet in the Rijksmuseum.
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