On Friday morning a group of students visiting the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C. had an unusually hands-on encounter with Sol LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing No. 681 C” when the work — which was created at the museum in 1993 but was not intended to remain in place so long — fell on them. Lest they be crushed by an iconic work of geometric abstraction, the students put their hands on the piece to prop it up, the Washington Post reports, briefly incurring the wrath of a nearby security guard.
“Don’t touch the painting!” a guard reportedly yelled at the boy and girl standing directly beneath the LeWitt when it began to fall, though he and two more students eventually joined them before workers arrived. They were able to prop the work up for the rest of Friday using wedges and screens. But the massive 10-by-37-foot mural — which consists of four separate panels for each of its sections of bold, abstract stripes — was de-installed on Saturday and has since been moved to the NGA’s storage facility.
“The artwork is represented in the gallery’s collection by a certificate and a diagram,” NGA spokesperson Deborah Ziska told the Post. “A team of artists from LeWitt’s studio executed this drawing in August of 1993… It was only meant to be temporary.”
Despite the oft-repeated maxim to not touch the art, Ziska concluded that the students were probably right to not let themselves be squashed by the weight of minimalist abstraction. “We applaud the children for doing what they thought was a good thing to do,” she told the Post.
— Benjamin Sutton
(Image: Sol LeWitt, “Wall Drawing No. 681 C / A wall divided vertically into four equal squares separated and bordered by black bands. Within each square, bands in one of four directions, each with color ink washes superimposed,” 1993; Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection; © 2013 National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)