8 Incredible Works of Art Destroyed by Humans Being Idiots

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It's 2014, and some people still do not know how to treat art properly. This month, Miami artist Maximo Caminero decided to smash a $1 million vase by the artist Ai Weiwei. Caminero, who is now facing prison time for his crime, claims he "did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums [there]."

In addition to the controversial Ai Weiwei vase incident, a cleaning woman at an Italian gallery recently threw away artworks by modernist artist Sala Murat because she confused them with trash. Though this certainly isn't the first time an expensive work of art has been thrown away, chipped at, or completely destroyed. Here are several famous works of art that have undergone hammers, elbows and urine due to the sheer clumsiness and stupidity of art viewers throughout history.

1. "Le Rêve" by Picasso


Image Credit: PabloPicasso.org

The 1932 painting Le Rêve is one of Picasso's most famous works. A portrait of his young mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, the painting's erotic undertones have been debated for years (the side of his subject's face resembles an erect penis).

In 2001, the portrait found itself in the hands of "casino magnate" Steve Wynn, having been sold at an estimated $60 million. One day, while showing the painting off to his friends, Wynn accidentally elbowed it, leaving a six-inch tear in the work of art. It was eventually repaired and sold to SAC Capital Advisors founder Steven Cohen for $155 million, but Wynn's hilariously stupid elbow move remains infamous.

2. "Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Marcel Duchamp's famous "Fountain" is meant to be a cheeky satire of vandalized found artworks, but the humor seems to have been lost on the many gutsy performance artists who have attempted to vandalize the piece itself. The original was lost in 1917, but a few copies are in existence. In 1993, artist Kendell Geers became famous for urinating in one at a show in Venice. Musician Brian Eno also peed in the "Fountain" while it was on exhibit at the MoMA in 1993, as did Swedish artist Björn Kjelltoft in Stockholm in 1999.

But it wasn't until 2006, when eccentric performance artist Pierre Pinoncelli essentially attacked the work with a hammer, that any real damage was done. Though he was arrested, Pinoncelli claims Duchamp would have admired his performance.

3. "My Bed" by Tracey Emin


Image Credit: Saatchi Gallery

The body of work of British performane artists Yuan Ci and Jian Jun Xi relies mainly on "art intervention." Their most invasive performance came in 1999, when they decided to jump on Tracey Emin's work "My Bed."

Emin's piece featured a messy, at the Tate Gallery. Both artists wrote the words "Freedom, Idealism, and Anarchism" on their bodies before jumping onto the work as part of their own piece titled "Two Naked Men Jump Into Tracey's Bed." The work was an attempt at "furthering Emin's work" in a subtly sexual way as both performers found the piece to be too institutionalized. Eventually, the bed was restored to its original state after the odd performance. 

4. "The Actor" by Pablo Picasso


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Poor Picasso just can't seem to get modern audiences to fully appreciate his prized works of art. In what was at once every museum-goer and art lover's worst nightmare, a woman attending a museum class at the Museum of Metropolitan Art lost her balance and tripped into the painting "The Actor" by Picasso. She left a 6-inch tear in the canvas, but the rip evidently didn't ruin the artwork. Just watch your step next time, lady!

5. "Night Watch" by Rembrandt van Rijn


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 1990, a bizarre Dutch national decided to spray Rembrandt van Rijn's "Night Watch" with sulfuric acid. Although the damage was relatively minor, it was the third time the painting had been vandalized. The painting was first slashed with a shoemaker's knife in 1911 by a random man. Then "Night Watch" was attacked was with a knife in 1975 by a schoolmaster who said he was on a divine mission. Moral of the story: people can't have nice things.

6. "Portland Vase" by Unknown Artist


Image Credit: BU

Don't drink and look at art, kids. The cameo vase dubbed "Portland Vase" is dated to have been made between 1 and 25 A.D. The vase is covered in ambiguous imagery, which has been interpreted as representing various mythological and historical stories but ultimately shrouds the vase with an air of mystery.

In 1845, a drunk man by the name of William Lloyd threw a sculpture on the vase, smashing it. Lloyd ended up being a fake name given to Trinity College student William Mulcahy, who was only convicted of breaking the glass case in which the vase was situated, as the owner of the vase didn't want the student's poor family to suffer the full costs of repairing the work of art.

7. The Qing Dynasty Vases of the Fitzwilliam Museum


Image Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum

In 2006, three giantic 300-year-old Qing Dynasty-era vases that had been on display for decades were destroyed by, you guessed it, an idiotic museumgoer. Nick Flynn said he had tripped over a shoelace and crashed into the vases, breaking them into tiny pieces. Luckily, a special ceramic restorer had the pieces back in the museum after six months of work.

8. "Pietà" by Michelangelo


Image Credit: Art Bible

Who knew one of Michelangelo's most famous works was once vandalized by a crazy man? In 1972, Lazlo Toth, a geologist, took a hammer to Michelangelo's "Pietà" statue, the classical Renaissance sculpture depicting Mary holding Christ's dead body after the Crucifixion.

Toth, jumped onto the altar at St. Peter's Basilica and apparently charged at the sculpture screaming "I am Jesus Christ, risen from the dead." The damage left Mary with a broken nose and chipped away about 100 fragments from the sculpture. Toth was sent to a psychiatric institution for two years.

The question as to whether or not the statue should clearly delineate damaged sections was hotly debated during the delicate reconstruction process, but the Pietà was eventually back on display without any signs of intervention 10 months after the attack — this time behind bullet-proof glass.