10 Artists Who Destroyed Their Own Work

Remember that life-size dollhouse that Canadian artist Heather Benning created that we fell in love with? Well, it was recently burned to the ground — by the artist. We feature a photo of the abandoned barn turned candy-colored dream home in flames after the jump. Historically, there are many reasons why artists have destroyed their own work. For some, it’s a way to keep a tight leash on their public image and bury the embarrassing early creations they’d like to forget about. Others incorporate the remains into new pieces, and several see the act of destruction as the work itself. Here’s a brief survey of artists who ruined their own creations and wreaked havoc on the art world.

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Photo credit: Heather Benning / Reston Recorder
Photo credit: Heather Benning / Reston Recorder

“It was always my intention that I would destroy The Dollhouse. I did not want to see it fall down or get vandalized. No one vandalizes a memory unless it was a bad one,” Saskatchewan installation artist Heather Benning recently said of her life-size prairie dollhouse. The installation had a cheery interior, but Benning’s statement about the work was grave:

“This project is/was about the difficulty and sadness of leaving home due to economics. It’s about remembering home — a home when you were a child and there were moments of complete stability, as though nothing would ever change, like the walls of a dollhouse — then becoming an adult and realizing that one’s world will always change. And there is always something left behind — some trace, a structure, a toy, a tea kettle… ”

But the reason Benning burned the house to the ground had nothing to do with this subtext:

“We decided to tear down the house this winter because it was starting to lose its structural strength. When I began the project the foundation was showing its age… add six more years of winter and record-breaking weather.”

We’ll miss you, dollhouse.