Descent Into Liability? Man Injured After Falling Into Black Hole Art Exhibit in Portugal

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In what sounds like accidents seen right out of a torts final,  Artist Anish Kapoor created a “Descent Into Limbo” to look like a black circle painted on the ground.  The problem is that the artistic effect would have been lost with barriers, but the lack of barriers led to a man falling into the eight-foot hole at the Serralves Museum in Porto.  It is a classic conflict between art and law with one demanding purity and the other demanding protection.

Kappor is well-known in Chicago given his work “Cloud Gate,” which has been universally dubbed “the bean” by Chicagoans.

The art piece looks like an Acme hole for road runner.

The man in his 60s was treated at the hospital.

This exhibit does have warning signs and an employee remains with the exhibit to keep people from getting too close.  However, the effect of the piece would be ruined with a physical barrier. The question is whether such artistic concerns should trump safety concerns. While I am more sympathetic with the artist, it could be claimed that a single employee is not a reasonable caution and many people may not read the warning, including children or people entering with crowds.  We have also seen how cellphones create an additional distraction in such cases.

Torts often looks at such conflicts under the “Hand Formula” of B<PL (with B as the burden to avoid the accident; P is the probability; and L is the loss). If the B is less than the PL, there is a negligence. The formula is more difficult when balancing artistic or aesthetic costs.

What do you think?

46 thoughts on “Descent Into Liability? Man Injured After Falling Into Black Hole Art Exhibit in Portugal”

    1. Darren:

      The little notification bell at the top right of the page has been missing for a few days. It allowed people who have wordpress blogs to see if there were replies to their comments. I think this has something to do with it:

      Thank you for looking at this!

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

      1. The notification problem is a design issue of the WordPress hosting system and as far as I know outside the scope for which individual WordPress Customers–Professor Turley–are able to change, that is it’s a platform design not a content matter.

        I’ll bring this and several other matters to Professor Turley’s attention next time I talk to him but it’s going to be a couple weeks or so before we both have the time to review the issues.

        1. OK, I have found a work-around. The notification shows up on my blog, sooo I can just leave it up, in another window to see replies to me.

          However, on Res Ipsa, the images and youtubes are not automatically loading up like they used to. Now, only a link shows. I bet there is something you have to enable to let those load. This may help:

          Squeeky Fromm
          Girl Reporter

          Squeeky Fromm
          Girl Reporter

        1. You can pull your nose out now, Cindy.

          Everyone has noticed your careful integration here: platitudes for the simplest utterings of commentators you agree with while taking mild swipes at commentators you perceive to agitate your new-found friends.

          No need to pretend any longer, Cindy.

          Let your pent up screeds rein, don’t hold back.

          1. R. Lien – are you jealous because your only friend on here is a sock puppet?

          2. Cindy Bragg says: August 30, 2018 at 10:48 PM

            Paul C Schulte…….Aren’t you kind! I got spooked because someone named R Lien left a nasty, mean reply to me and I didn’t know who it was…..and. didn’t know what to think, unaccustomed as I am to that kind of verbal attack.
            But I have not seen that name all this week……..So, as Sir Larry Olivier asked Dustin Hoffman. “Is it safe?”

          3. Cindy Bragg says: August 31, 2018 at 12:39 AM

            Paul C. Schulte…..Thank you, Paul. Good advice that I will heed. And actually, per the “incident”, I had not even engaged this person R Lien in conversation. On the post about the black hole art piece in Portugal, I had merely commented to Squeeky that we had missed her. R Lien then clicked on my reply button and the next thing I knew “Son of a bang! Son of a boom!” I was bombarded with such hateful, sinister verbal bullets. It frightened and sickened me.
            If I see that name again, I won’t read a word of its comments. I come here because I like Prof.Turley, I always learn so much from all of you, and it keeps me off the streets

    1. FWIW the bete noire of the 20th century, Hitler, was an artist. And a better one than he’s given credit for too

      1. Mr Kurtz – Hitler just had problems drawing the human figure. However, so did Picasso.

  1. Where there is danger of harm, protection should be provided and it should consider that not everyone can read, or read the language of the sign. Barriers that don’t interfere with the art should be arranged. I’m not sure I would see an 8 ft hole in the ground interesting. I kind of like the work artists the use the 2 dimensional medium to create art that appears to be 3 dimensions and a fall possibility if you step into it. I’m sure if I stepped into it, vertigo would take over and I would actually fall on the flat surface.

    Current case? The museum acknowledged a danger but didn’t provide sufficient protection.

  2. What do I think? It’s another indication that the world of contemporary art is suffused with humbug, and should never be subsidized by any serious philanthropy. Cut off the grants, fire the faculty, fire the remaining newspaper and magazine critics. They either specialize in pre-1920 art or they don’t keep their jobs.

  3. Oh for God’s sake, a black hole is not high art. It might be a statement or a commentary or interesting, but it is not something that belongs in a reputable museum.

    Is this the state we find ourselves? You can dig a hole and leave visitors to contemplate the void? A barrier would detract from the “art”? It’s a hazard! We have rules and regulations and tort cases to prevent such obvious hazards to the public.

    It’s a hole!!!!!! Go contemplate a man hole if you want to think about the void. Be sure to remove the barriers so it doesn’t detract from the artwork.

    Is my bitterness showing on the degradation of art appreciation and quality?

  4. The so called hole artist paid the guy to fall into the hole to get a whole lot of publicity for his apCray art. He is related to Man-a-fart.

  5. This exhibit does have warning signs and an employee remains with the exhibit to keep people from getting too close.

    I believe it’s the museum that is in legal limbo at the moment. The artist creates a piece the museum agrees to exhibit. By posting warning signs and a security guard, the museum recognizes the potential harm to patrons. They apparently didn’t do enough.

    1. Unless the excuse of posting signs and having an employee would work for a deli, it shouldn’t work for an art exhibit.

  6. I don’t see how the “artistic” and “aesthetic” sensibilities require there to be an 8 foot drop inside the hole. I call BS. If he had fallen into the hole and dropped 2 feet, I’d say they did all they could. But to say the “art” required an 8 foot drop is ridiculous; unless the “artist” wanted this type of publicity.

    1. You know there is no Galaxy without that black hole in the center holding everything in Thrall…right? And that Art is a reflection of creation and ones own understanding of it, right? And that just because you don’t appreciate it does not actually mean it is unappreciable…..right?

      That said, the one who dropped the ball here was not the Artist….it was the exploiter ;P

  7. Art museums are dangerous places. Not suitable for fools or unattended small children.

  8. I really think the museum is at fault considering the number of tourists who are killed at the Grand Canyon each year. They have signs, too. And rails. And fences. And 500 foot drops. Just take another step back, dear, so I can get a better panorama. Where did you go? You are out of the picture? Can’t you follow directions? Geez!

  9. There needs to be a place somewhere for this kind of art. Innocents should be protected, but this kind of things should be available to people who are looking for this kind of things, and are willing to take the risks. Surely visiting that museum is not more dangerous than skydiving, for instance. A disclaimer at the entrance of the museum is fair game, even restricting which museums it is displayed it is OK, but banning such art as unsafe is patronizing and disruptive and unjustified.

    1. Guilheim,
      Yes innocents should be protected, and perhaps given an IQ test?

    2. “There needs to be a place somewhere for this kind of art.” Whyyyyyyyyyy? It’s a hole!

      You can see art in the everyday, and appreciate the aesthetic of life. But elevating literally everything to museums or galleries dilutes the art world and jades the public.

      Someone got money and accolades for an 8 foot hole by the very same people who disdain pool contractors who dig…decorative deep holes.

      1. Karen S – my personal favorite art rip-offs is a pure white canvas hanging in the Malibu Art Museum. I paid a whole $2.00 to get in there. That pure white 8 x 4 canvas is entitled “Snow”. It is the only museum I have been in where I wanted my money back.

        You have to go with Frank Lloyd Wright when he says, “If they pay for it, it is art.” That is the only reason that explains some of these things. Now my tastes are eclectic, but a hole in the ground is a hole in the ground. And a messy bed is a messy bed.

        1. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Someone, somewhere, might think the My Bed exhibit, with the used condoms and messy stained sheets with who knows what is art.

          But museum curators are supposed to have discernment, taste, and the ability to judge fine art. So are prominent art critics. That assumption was blown years ago. They are all Emperors paying charlatans for new clothes.

          A blank canvas???? Really???

          This reminds me of why my parents cancelled their seats at the local civic arts center. They attended a concert by some Russian featured symphony, and sat through what they thought for the first 20 minutes was the orchestra badly tuning their instruments. All the screeching was supposed to allude to psychological discomfort and dissonance. It was uncomfortable all right. When asked why they were canceling their membership, they merely gave the concert’s name. There was a pause, and then they were told the representative fully understood. They were getting a lot of similar cancellations.

          And therein lies the lesson. If the self proclaimed purveyors and curators of fine art have lost their minds, then the general public must respond with their dollars. Anyone can call a hole in the ground “art” but when the public lampoons the show and the museum loses credibility and money, curators will respond. Because art is also a business.

          1. Karen S – I know exactly who the composer was – Phillip Glass. 😉 He is an acquired taste. Most do not acquire it. 😉

          2. Karen….Remember musician John Cage and his “4 min 33 seconds” composition? Maybe you’re too young.
            The instruments on stage do nothing for 4 min 33 sec….sit in silence. The “music” is the audience reaction to silence ( other ambient noises contribute, as well). I thought that was SO cool when I was in my 20’s !
            I really loved John Cage, but loved his writings more than his music.

            1. Cindy Bragg – I thought Cage was a rip-off then and now. 😉 He must have worked so hard to write nothing.

      2. We are not debating what art is, though… Whether you like this specific piece or not is irrelevant. The topic is whether it should be mandatory to baby-proof every exhibit. As long as some people are into it, there must be a place for it somewhere – even if you are not into it. I am not into boxing, and boxing is not safe, but some people are into boxing, so there must be a place somewhere for it.

  10. Another one goes wading with bears and so forth. Stupid people deserve no pity but his one was obviously a hall for pedestrian use. Res ipsa loquitur the crime speaks for itself and the culprit is the museum operators. I wonder if they have tort lawyers in Portugal. We very well may have a corner on the market. Should we send some?

  11. The prosecutions comment from yesterday stated that Cohen had ‘a long and repetitive record of dishonesty.’ Now they use him as a star witness? How bankrupt is this investigation. No morals, no ethics,

    No ability to focus, claim they have all these wide ranging power but not one dirty cop had been charged, not one dirty Klinton has been charged, not one oath breaking politician exposed….and we’re left wondering did the payoffs from Clinton go to places INSIDE the USA as well as outside?

    I’m hoping this interview tomorrow will shake up the mistakenly at this time termed DOJ and Friday we can wake up to a DOJ that run by competent honest citizens.

    :Let the left howl and scream. They aren’t real citizens anyway and if you don’t know why compare the oath of office first phrase or two to their actions and don’t ask why we citizens don’t even pity you anymore

    Constitutional Centrist which means I don’t belong to any party.

  12. Are we sure that 18 yr. old Taylor Smith wasn’t visiting from Washington and gave him a push? 😊

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