The Exploding Museum in Hamburg

A Brief History of Authoterrorism

Over at the Paris Review‘s blog, there is a long-lost piece by Terry Southern, “New Art Museum in Hamburg Blown Up.” The story is from 1962 and was originally published in the short-lived magazine Olympia. It is being brought back into print in the collection, A Brief History of Authoterrorism, a collection of writing demonstrating the lengths people will go for an audience.

Southern’s piece is about the mysterious explosion of a museum in Hamburg, Das Rheingeld, while a line of 150 people waited outside to see an exhibition of neo-Nada work. Southern spoke to Ernest Badhoff, one of the artists, was a little, uh, eccentric.

Q: Now your vernissage at the Rheingeld was spoiled, wasn’t it—by the explosions, I mean. How did that happen?

Herr Badhoff: No, no, that was the vernissage.

Q: The work, the paintings, deliberately destroyed?

Herr Badhoff: No, no, that isn’t the point. You have to see the totality of it. The paintings did not exist at the time of the explosions. Those paintings were done with an oil-based pigment, you understand, tinctured with acid—sulphuric acid, six-percent solution—giving them a physical duration of about seventy-two hours. The paintings were nonexistent before the explosions.

Q: Well, now just what was the point?

Herr Badhoff: The point? What point?

Q: Well, of the whole thing.

Herr Badhoff: Ah yes, that was the point—the “whole thing!” Yes, that was the point precisely!

It’s all a kind of “who’s on first?” routine about violently conceptual art. Take a look for yourself.

The Exploding Museum in Hamburg