Just before noon on Friday, as a group of students toured the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, the wall behind them began to collapse.
Or at least, that’s what it looked like at the time.
Bystanders heard the snap. They saw the tiny fractures. And Sol LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing No. 681 C,” all 10 feet by 37 feet of it, began to fall slowly toward the teenage boy and girl standing in front of it.
To save the falling work, they lunged forward to push it up.
“Don’t touch the painting!” a guard yelled out of habit, until he, too, noticed the installation in flight. He moved swiftly, just as the students did, toward the LeWitt, and then there were six palms touching the work, committing the cardinal sin of gallery-going.
Two more boys joined the group, then several others arrived. Help eventually came minutes later from workers with wedges and screens that are now holding the installation up for the remaining hours of its public display.