An exploding fish, part of an art piece done by Lee Bul. exploded in a London art gallery during the last week of May.
"Majestic Splendor" was part of a rotting fish exhibition that Bul, an Asian artist, created. The exhibition was slated to open the week of May 30 at Haywood Gallery but now its self-bombing has led to a real mess in this art museum. With the fish blowing up, it even caused a fire, creating damage in part of the gallery .
According to LiveScience's report June 4: "Even though the exhibit was not yet open to the public, gallery officials had already decided to remove "Majestic Splendor" from the show for safety reasons. They had learned earlier that a chemical added to the fishes' bags to dampen their smell could become flammable after combining with gases released by the decomposing flesh, and art handlers were taking down the art as a precaution when it suddenly combusted and sparked a fire, a gallery spokesperson told frieze magazine.
"Majestic Splendor" previously raised eyebrows — and wrinkled noses — when it was presented at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City in January 1997. Dozens of small, transparent bags were fixed to a wall; each contained a rotting fish decorated with stitched-on sequins and beads, representing Bul's scathing commentary on the fleeting nature of beauty for highly ornamented women, according to the 1997 MoMA exhibition catalog.
But after a custom-designed refrigeration unit for the MoMA installation failed, the smell was so awful that museum officials nixed the display and removed it, and subsequent showings included an odor-reducing chemical known as potassium permanganate, the Guardian reported.
There's nothing worse than going to an art museum and finding a mix of compounds of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, producing odors that are overpowering and stinking while screaming at the top of its lungs "I'm very fishy " greeting your olfactory sense. If Bul wanted to show the transitory phase of life where beauty rules and he wanted to do this with sequins, he really should have used dolls. Even blow-up dolls with pins stuck through them, with flat fabric or rubber hanging from a wall, would have been a big improvement over exploding fish and fire.
LiveScience goes on to point out: For the new show and for previous installations after the MoMA debacle, potassium permanganate — also known as KMnO4 — was added to "Majestic Splendor" to reduce the smell of the rotting fish. In fact, KMnO4 is a time-honored choice for masking strong odors, Raychelle Burks, an assistant professor of chemistry at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, told Live Science in an email.
"This chemical is a good oxidizing agent, reacting with a range of stinky, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to produce far less stinky or no-stink compounds," Burks said.
But when combined with combustible material, KMnO4 is known to trigger violent explosions under certain circumstances, she added. It's possible that the compounds produced by the putrefying fish interacted with KMnO4 to spark combustion, but it's also likely that the explosion was caused by pressure buildup from trapped gases that had nowhere to go, similar to the effect that causes beached and bloated dead whales to explode, Burks told Live Science.
After the gallery incident, firefighters quickly put out the blaze, and a security guard was treated for smoke inhalation; damage to the Hayward Gallery from the fire was "superficial" and contained in one small section of the exhibit space, according to artnet News. The exhibit, titled "Crashing," opened on June 1 and will run through Aug. 19 — minus the malodorous and volatile fish display.
It's a good thing that Bul chose for a model rather small aquatic animals like common, ordinary fish and not whales or sharks. Or, for that matter, giant squids, sailfish, walruses or elephant seals. Such an explosion and fire of large models, like these giant beasts, could have decimated the entire museum and created a lot of damage to the neighborhood around it.
If you're really itching to find an exploding fish on a wall, go fishing yourself somewhere in a more polluted section of the River Thames and throw a petroleum-infested, large, catfish or a carp against the wall of a factory or a warehouse nearby. That's enough fire and brimstone to last for a holiday. And it's enough art to last at least an evening out drinking wine and carousing. Who knows, it you capture this whole thing on a video, you can post it to social media or on YouTube and it might go viral!'
Source: LiveScience's June 4, 2018, article titled "Rotting Fish Art Explodes, Causes Fire in London Art Gallery. Cut and paste the following link: https://www.livescience.com/62732-rotting-fish-explosion-art-gallery.html