Does breaking a window count as art? Yes, murmured the 50 or so artniks who recently crowded into a former Edinburgh ambulance garage to view a film of sculptor Kevin Harman doing just that. No, insisted Kate Gray, director of the Collective Gallery in Cockburn Street, whose window it was.
The courts are on Gray’s side. Yesterday Harman, a prize-winning graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, was fined £200 for breaching the peace on 23 November, when he smashed a metal scaffolding pole through one of the gallery’s windows. Fiscal depute Malcolm Stewart described the affair as “a rather bizarre incident” which had left Collective staff “upset.”
As Harman, 27, had already paid £350 to have the window instantly replaced, his artistic intervention has proved pricey. The Collective’s decision to prosecute was promptly condemned by Harman’s supporters.
“They should have shaken his hand and bought him a drink,” declared Royal Academician Michael Sandle. Edinburgh art guru Richard Demarco, whose foundation recently awarded Harman a £2,000 scholarship, described the gallery’s action as “intensely regrettable”, and the artist as “a serious, hard-working and gifted person”.
Gray was unavailable for comment, as was the Edinburgh College of Art, where Harman is in the second year of a master’s course. It is understood that several of his tutors had been supportive of the project, which was initially labelled Brick. The scaffolding pole was substituted as a safer option.
The student, who has a piece in the current show of the Royal Scottish Academy, explained that he was less distressed by the fine than by the Collective’s dismissal of his work as “vandalism”, as the charge sheet put it. “There have got to be serious questions asked of their position as arbiters of art,” he told the Guardian.