Pompidou Centre wrecks art on loan from US

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The Independent Online

When the Pompidou Centre in Paris launched a celebration of the work of Los Angeles artists, it intended to strengthen its links with American galleries. But "Los Angeles 1955-1985", an exhibition which ran from March to July, has ended up doing more harm than good.

In three incidents, the museum has ruined two works of art and damaged a third, provoking fury from the artists and incredulity from art experts who have been left wondering whether a major modern art gallery has ever caused so much damage in one exhibition. The incidents all involved original works accidentally falling from the museum's walls.

"It's extremely upsetting," Michael Goven, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which lent more than a dozen pieces to the Paris gallery, told the Los Angeles Times. "We're still investigating all of the details." The exhibition, which drew on 350 works by 85 artists, was inspired by the urban complexity of Los Angeles. "France and Europe took this opportunity to better our understanding of contemporary American art," a museum spokesman said.

One of the Los Angeles-based artists involved, Peter Alexander, said the loss of his work was deeply upsetting. His untitled piece - a black resin bar measuring 8ft by 5in - was on loan to the Pompidou Centre from the Franklin Parrasch gallery in New York. It fell to the ground and smashed the night before the exhibition opened. "For an artist who has held back a piece for 40 years and kept it pristine, this is a tremendous loss" he said.

The second loss was Craig Kauffman's Untitled Wall Relief, an acrylic lacquer-on-Plexiglass piece created in 1967. It survived several earthquakes while on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Pompidou Centre expressed apologies. "We are guardians of works of art and we deeply regret the incidents," its communications director, Roya Nasser, said. "It is unheard of for us. These were fragile works of art. They were hung according to instructions. We can only assume that the works were created with experimental materials."

An investigation and insurance claim is under way.

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