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elbow through the picasso

it’s an old joke in our family. whenever we got together for a holiday dinner, someone inevitably would put their elbow in the butter, because there were so many people crowded around a table overflowing with food. and the butter would end up near someone’s elbow, and there you have it.

it was me a couple of times. it was my mother quite a bit, and i recall my grandfather with his elbow in the butter as well. he might have done it on purpose, though, just to have a good story. he was quite a provocateur, that one.

i have managed thus far in life, however, to keep my elbow only in various messy things, and out of valuable objects.

steve wynn, however, has not been so lucky. it seems that he recently stuck his elbow through his picasso (via kottke). and not just any picasso, but Le Rêve, which had just been sold, by wynn, for $139 million. the highest price ever paid for a painting.

by the way, the link is via kottke, not the elbow. i’m pretty sure kottke didn’t have anything to do with steve wynn’s elbow.

nora ephron was there when it happened, and writes about it memorably.

it should be said that steve wynn has a definite excuse–he’s nearly blind from retinitis pigmentosa. so i’m definitely not making fun of him, which of course would be my normal modus operandi. i can’t even imagine how badly he must have felt at that moment. here’s how he described it to the new yorker:

“So then I made a gesture with my right hand,” Wynn said, “and my right elbow hit the picture. It punctured the picture.” There was a distinct ripping sound. Wynn turned around and saw, on Marie-Thérèse Walter’s left forearm, in the lower-right quadrant of the painting, “a slight puncture, a two-inch tear. We all just stopped. I said, ‘I can’t believe I just did that. Oh, shit. Oh, man.’ ”

oh shit, indeed. the painting is being restored, but wynn is keeping it because the sale was cancelled by the buyer.

fascinating story. one reason why, when i’m in an art gallery, i always try to walk with my hands clasped behind my back.

and i’ll never again feel bad for putting my elbow in anyone’s butter.