This is the moment an acrobatic performer ruins a work of modern art – a giant pool of oil – by a famous Japanese artist when he accidentally dunks his head in it.
The incident took place at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, which is located in the Iranian capital, with the museum saying yesterday, on Monday, 14th March, that it “regretted” the damage sustained by the piece, called ‘Matter and Thought’, by the late Japanese artist Noriyuki Haraguchi.
The footage shows the performing artist splashing the surface of the pool with his head, causing oil to spill out onto the floor as people watching gasp in shock. The museum later said that the performer’s treatment of the work of art was “wrong”.
Haraguchi passed away in 2020 after a career as a leading figure of the mono-ha and post-mono-ha movement. From the 1970s onwards, his works ranged from critiquing modernity and industrialisation after many years working on anti-war pieces.
He is most famous for the ‘Matter and Thought’ piece, a version of which he first created in 1971 and which was first shown in Germany. The Tehran version of the modern-art pool, also known as the ‘Oil Pool’, reportedly contains some 1,190 gallons of oil.
Speaking to German media about the work of art in 1977, Haraguchi had said: “We recognise the conditions in our surroundings – the situation, you might say – by relating them to universal concepts, be these the cosmos, nature, the laws of physics, or simply the space in which we find ourselves…
“An exhibition space creates a particular kind of self-contained, closed-off situation which can be understood conceptually. Since the point is to express the totality of all our perceptions in this situation, I convey my concepts in an extremely simplified form.
“In my work I want to present all the elements involved in the process of perception, including myself, in a fixed, balanced relationship. My aim is to objectify horizontality, verticality, materiality, reflections, fluids, containers, physical phenomena of all kinds including myself (body, feelings and thoughts).”
The artist was praised as a master of merging personal and political elements, and for his critique of the military-industrial complex.
It is currently unclear if the work of art can be repaired and how much this would cost.