Photo: @mickaelnogal (Instagram)
Forget that joke about the dumb blonde who walked into a bar and said, “Ouch!” She’s finally been outdone. On Aug. 13, a man fell into a black hole featured in an art exhibit by master sculptor Anish Kapoor, reminding us that while art is beautiful, it can also be disruptive, controversial, and even dangerous.
That Had To Hurt
On display at Serralves Museum in Poro, Portugal, “Descent Into Limbo” is an installation piece constructed in 1992. In it, multiple visitors can enter a giant cube and then look into a hole painted black that appears bottomless. In reality, the hole is only 8 feet deep, but that’s deep enough to cause serious damage.
The exhibit has warnings signs and security staff are on duty, yet a 60-year-old Italian man fell into the exhibit. He was hospitalized for several days after the fall but was ultimately okay. Looking at pictures of “Descent Into Limbo,” it’s easy to mistake the hole for 3-D street art. The warning signs could be mistaken for part of the art, or might not be as visible as they could be. The exhibit in which the installation was featured, Anish Kapoor: Works, Thoughts, and Experiments, closed for a few days afterwards for a safety re-evaluation.
Are Interactive Art Exhibits Safe?
It’s hard to tell how the black hole incident might ripple through the art community or museums. Many look to art for refuge in addition to entertainment and education. This accident could lead to less interactive art installations like The Color Factory in San Francisco or New York’s Museum of Ice Cream. Instagram accounts all across the Internet will suffer as a result.
Do accidents make it more challenging for artists to create and display their work? Museums and galleries might be less inclined to feature a piece of art that could hurt admirers, alienating artists who thrive on taking risks. Too many accidents or over-cautious curators might restrict artists’ expression. Perhaps this isn’t a bad thing, though. When it comes to interactive art installations, the art and the artist often take precedence over the audience’s well-being. Perhaps the black hole incident and others like it will motivate artists to make their art more viewer-friendly. In a world full of safety goggles and release forms, why should art be excused from standard safety practices?
The Artist Reacts
Kapo0r’s expansive body of work plays with space, color, perspective, size, color, and light; he’s made some of the most thought-provoking illusions ever constructed. When asked by the Guardian about the accident with “Descent Into Limbo,” Kapoor responded, “What can I say, it’s a shame.”