Parisian artist Claire Fontaine is known for her neo-conceptual works, but when a map of America constructed of matches was set ablaze late Tuesday night it sent San Francisco firefighters rushing to a Mission District neighborhood art gallery.
Authorities said they got a 911 call around 10 p.m. of smoke and flames coming from the Queens Nail Annex gallery.
Arriving firefighters discovered that the gallery owner had set one of Fontaine’ works – a map of the United States constructed from 25,000 matches -- ablaze.
The blaze left a scorch mark on the wall and damage to the ceiling.
“The exhibit went up (in flames) and caused the room and contents to catch fire and we quickly knocked it down,” said Deputy Fire Chief Mark Gonzales. “We would have never permitted this.”
Setting the work ablaze and filming the burning was part of the art work, according to Fontaine.
“Americans rules of safety are obviously different than other countries,” she told KTVU. “The firemen who do dangerous and noble work come here and see people playing with fire and don’t like it.”
Fontaine said the exhibit was safe and there were fire extinguishers at the ready when it was ignited, but fire officials disagree.
“The owner lit up the exhibit not out of maliciousness but out of ignorance,” he told KTVU. “But the police are discussing with the city attorney what to do about it.”
No one was injured in the blaze and it was not immediately known if the gallery owner would be facing any kind of fine for his actions.
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