What Happens When An Ai Weiwei Crab Is Accidentally Crushed at Sotheby’s?

A student backed into the $605,000 installation to snap a photo.

Ai Weiwei, He Xie (2010).
Sotheby's.

During a recent outing to Sotheby’s New York headquarters for a preview showing of their Post-war and Contemporary evening sale, a student at Sotheby’s Institute of Art accidentally stepped on and shattered one of the small crabs in Ai Weiwei’s installation, He Xie, artnet News has learned from a witness.

The person who saw the crushing told artnet News that the student in question was taking a photograph and slowly backed into the installation, crushing a crab in the process. When Sotheby’s was contacted, a spokesperson for the auction house neither confirmed nor denied the story.

Last Tuesday night, He Xie, which is comprised of 2,500 pieces of the delicate porcelain shellfish piled into a circular heap, sold for $605,000, just making its low estimate of $600,000.

Unintentionally, the young woman turned Ai Weiwei’s He Xie into something akin to Felix Gonzalez-Torres‘s Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.)a work comprised of a 175lb-mound of individually wrapped hard candies that visitors are invited to take. But unlike Gonzalez-Torres’s dime-store candies, the crabs—when you do the math—are about $242 each.

Thankfully for the new owner, as per the Sotheby’s spokesperson, the work comes with “extra crabs.”


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