Flaming art exhibit scorches SF gallery


It was an obviously dangerous plan: Create a unique piece of artwork out of matchsticks and then set it ablaze.

Despite the clear risk, Parisian pyromaniac artist Claire Fontaine decided to test her luck when she constructed a map of the U.S. out of matches.

The exhibit, entitled “Burnt/Unburnt”, was on display at Queens Nail Annex gallery on Mission Street in Bernal Heights. As part of the exhibit, Fontaine’s art is supposed to be set on fire and then filmed.

So, following the artists’ directions, the gallery owner lit the matchstick map on fire, simultaneously igniting all 25,000 matches. Not surprisingly, the fire quickly got out of hand and the fire department was called in around 10 p.m. to tackle the billowing flames and smoke.

After the flames subsided, scorch marks remained on the wall and ceiling. Deputy Fire Chief Mark Gonzales told KTVU:

“The exhibit went up (in flames) and caused the room and contents to catch fire and we quickly knocked it down. We would have never permitted this.”

Despite Fontaine’s claims that the exhibit was safe since there were fire extinguishers nearby, fire officials disagreed. And, since fire art is Fontaine’s calling card, she didn’t seem too alarmed that the fire got out of control, shrugging off the whole ordeal to KTVU:

“Americans rules of safety are obviously different than other countries. The firemen who do dangerous and noble work come here and see people playing with fire and don’t like it.”

Yeah, or maybe the neighboring buildings who could also have caught on fire didn’t like it either.

Lesson learned: don’t light up artwork made of matchsticks and just because it worked in Paris, doesn’t mean it will work in San Francisco.

Ryan Leong named SFBay sports editor

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