Detroit Museum of New Art: “kaBOOM!”
(Note: Part of me is a little skeptical that this event actually took place as described below by curator Jef Bourgeau, but a number of publications reviewed the exhibition and gave similar stories, so I’m posting it. If you have any additional information - especially PHOTO DOCUMENTATION, which I couldn’t find online - feel free to share it via the “Submit” option to the right.)
In 2002, the Detroit Museum of New Art staged an exhibition called “kaBOOM!” in which visitors were invited to destroy reproductions of over 100 well-known artworks by artists like Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Barnett Newman, and Willem de Kooning.
While the show was set to run for two months, the exhibit was completely destroyed by the end of its chaotic opening reception.
In addition to destroying all of the reproductions as intended, visitors got creative with their vandalism: Fires were set in isolated galleries using piles of museum brochures. / A wrecking ball, supplied as a means of destroying a particular work on display, was removed from its chain and used instead as a bowling ball, taking out an entire installation as well as the corner of one of the museum’s walls. / Visitors urinated into not only a reproduction of Duchamp’s “Fountain,” but also his sculpture “Why not Sneeze, Rrose Sélavy?” (a birdcage with sugar cubes), before stomping the cage to pieces. / Artist Dana Smith, giving a performance combining Yoko Ono’s “Cut” with Duchamp’s “The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even,” was attacked, leaving her in tears and running naked for the safety of a locked room. / At some point, someone wrote “Fuck Art Rules!” on a wall with their own feces.
The show was not without precedence: the Dadaists famously held an exhibition in which visitors were supplied with an axe and invited to destroy the works on display.