The Critic Who Accidentally Smashed a $19,000 Glass Sculpture at an Art Fair Says It Was ‘Devoid of Artistic Attributes’ Anyway

The critic is an outspoken opponent of what she calls the “fraud” of contemporary art.

Gabriel Rico's sculpture lies in pieces at Galeria OMR, Zona Maco 2020. Photo by Katie White.

The controversial Mexican art critic who was blamed for smashing a $19,000 glass sculpture at an art fair earlier this month is doubling down on her claim that she’s not responsible for the work’s spectacular destruction.

Avelina Lésper, an outspoken critic of what she calls the “fraud” of contemporary art, says that artist Gabriel Rico’s 2018 work, Nimble and Sinister Tricks (to be preserved without scandal and corruption), which exploded at the Zona Maco art fair as she delivered her negative critique, was an accident waiting to happen because of its flawed construction.

“Experts tell me that poorly tempered and poorly cut glass can break spontaneously at any time,” she wrote in her blog last week. “If safety glass does not withstand minimal contact… when cleaning or moving it, it was going to break.” 

Rico’s found-object assemblage, which included a football, a rock, a knife, and a feather suspended in a tall sheet of clear glass inside a metal framework, was the centerpiece of the Mexico City-based Galería OMR’s stand. 

“I found it devoid of artistic attributes,” Lésper writes of the work.

During the fair, Artnet News reported that the critic placed an empty Coke can on the sculpture to take a mocking photograph. But Lésper now says she made no contact with the sculpture. “Without touching it, the glass imploded, disintegrated into pieces,” she writes.

An image posted on social media appears to show the moment before the catastrophe. She argues that the work could be remade without much difficulty.

The artist, whose work was included in the 2019 Venice Biennale’s main exhibition, has decided against remaking the sculpture, however. In a joint statement, Rico and the OMR gallery say that after lengthy discussions, “we have come to the conclusion that the artwork has undergone irreparable damage and cannot be accurately reproduced, and so the work itself is lost.”

They decline to speculate what exactly happened at Zona Maco. But the statement notes that “accidents happen when situations are exposed to risk, as is the case with Ms. Lésper’s actions.”

“The response from our colleagues, collaborators, and friends, as well as the global arts community and the international media, has been truly moving,” the statement says. A spokesman for OMR tells Artnet News that it will not be responding to Lésper’s latest comments. 

The artist, who is also represented by Perrotin, presented work at its booth at Frieze LA last week without any mishaps. Next month, a solo show of Rico’s assemblages is due to open in Perrotin’s Paris space.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics