Lonely Planet Writer

Oops! A visitor accidentally smashes a Jeff Koons' artwork in Amsterdam

On the final day of American artist, Jeff Koons‘ one-work exhibition at De Nieuwe Kerk, a 15th-century church in Amsterdam, disaster struck when a visitor touched the cobalt blue glass ball attached to a painting and it shattered in pieces. ‘Gazing Ball’ was attached to a copy of an altarpiece by the 16th-century Italian Renaissance artist, Pietro Perugino, called Madonna and Child with Four Saints (1500-1501).

US artist Jeff Koons poses with his piece ‘Gazing Ball in 2016, during an interview with AFP in Hong Kong. Image: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

It was on display as part of the Masterworks rotating exhibition, which focuses on a single work of art at one time. It has been reported that the visitor who touched the artwork is deeply shocked, but there was no suggestion of sabotage. “We are still investigating exactly what happened,” spokesman Martijn van Schieveen told the Volkskrant newspaper. “He wanted to touch the artwork like lots of other people. Then the ball shattered. There was a line on the ground to show that visitors are not allowed to get too near. The security guards also watch out that it doesn’t happen.’”

Gazing Ball (Perugino Madonna and Child with Four Saints), 2014–15 by Jeff Koons. Image: De Nieuwe Kerk

The work is from the Gazing Ball Paintings series by Koons, which began in 2014. The idea is that the mirrored sphere that sits on a painted aluminium shelf attached to the front of the painting and it reflects the viewers and their surroundings, drawing them into the work and creating a three-dimensional interactive experience. To create this new work, Jeff Koons meticulously analysed the colour used by Perugino, and he and his assistants reproduced every detail of the painting using thousands of different hand-mixed colours.

US artist Jeff Koons ‘s artwork ‘Gazing Ball’ when it was part of the exhibition ‘A Brief History of the Future’ at the Louvre museum in Paris in 2015. Image: Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images

According to the press release issued by the church, the Masterworks series presents works of art that are so extraordinary, they are almost never loaned out because of their fragility or their status as beloved favourites. Previously featured artists have included Andy Warhol, Marc Chagall and Francis Bacon. You can read more about the series on De Nieuwe Kerk’s website here.