updated 9/23/2004 2:45:26 PM ET 2004-09-23T18:45:26

A woman doing handsprings hurled herself into two art installations at the controversial exhibition of a collection belonging to the billionaire heir of a Nazi-era arms supplier, damaging both pieces, organizers said Thursday.

The bizarre attack came late Wednesday on the top floor of the Hamburger Bahnhof museum, where Friedrich Christian Flick’s collection was opened to the public earlier in the day.

Yelling loudly, the 35-year-old woman attacked “Office Baroque,” a cutout section of wall by American artist Gordon Matta-Clark, doing a series of head-over-heels flips before landing on the work in a handstand, punching both her arms through the drywall, said Klaus Dieter Lehmann, president of Berlin’s Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

She then ran across the large room, pushing over a section of a spray-painted truck called “Graffiti Truck,” also by Matta-Clark, bending back the metal roof.

Taken aback, a security guard called his supervisor for advice on how to react before moving to protect other pieces in the room, Lehmann said.

Police arrived on the scene about five minutes later and took the woman into custody. As she was apprehended, the woman said, “Flick, I am satisfied,” according to a museum security official.

Historical baggage
Controversy has surrounded the exhibition, with many questioning whether it was appropriate to display works from the collection of 2,500 contemporary pieces given the Flick family’s background.

After Germany’s defeat in World War II, Flick’s grandfather, Friedrich Flick, was sentenced to seven years in prison for crimes that included the use of slave labor in his arms factories and the confiscation of Jewish property. The elder Flick lost his fortune, but after his release he was able to rebuild his business in West Germany before his death in 1972.

Critics have accused the younger Flick of trying to whitewash his family history with the exhibit, while the Berlin government has said the art speaks for itself, separate from the Flick name.

Only a handful of demonstrators protested outside the official opening ceremony Tuesday as Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder gave the keynote address, and 5,000 people showed up Wednesday for the exhibit with no protests — until the gymnastic attack.

Lehmann said the woman was known to police for causing disturbances.

Violence against art
Lehmann said that Flick was “shocked” by the attack but said he had no plans of changing his mind about showing the works.

The museum plans to go over with its security staff how it should react in cases of attacks on the exhibit, but doesn’t intend to add further precautions, Lehmann said.

Officials said the two works could be restored and had no damage estimate.

“It’s particularly tragic because Gordon Matta-Clark died very young,” said museum curator Eugen Blume. “These pieces are particularly noteworthy. It was a violent attack against art and we regret it very much.”

Matta-Clark, whose activities included “building cuts” or chopping out sections of abandoned buildings, died in 1978 at age 35, the year after he created “Office Baroque.”

Pieces in the collection include Bruce Nauman’s neon sculptures and Jeff Koons’ giant gold statue of Michael Jackson. Flick has loaned his vast collection for exhibition over the next seven years at his own expense.

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