The incident occurred on Saturday at the Meno Uno gallery in Lugano during the vernissage of works by the late Italian artist Luciano Fabro from the private collection of Giancarlo and Danna Olgiati.
The journalist from the Italian-speaking Swiss radio service was reportedly moving out of the way of other guests at the Saturday night event when he knocked over one of Fabro’s sculptures, RSI reported.
The work was a glass dic, dating from 1964, known as Impronta (Imprint), an important work by Fabro, which was regarded as one of the most renowned examples of the Italian Arte Povera movement.
With a diameter of 74.5 centimetres, the disc featured an imprint of the earth in its centre.
It was supported on a metal base according to the instructions of the artist, said the city of Lugano, which is responsible for managing the Olgiati collection.
The sculpture was fixed to the ground on four points and observed by a security guard, said the city, which is refusing to accept any responsibility for the accident.
RSI reported that it was “no consolation that the insurer was present for the inauguration of the collection”.
A representative of the broadcaster told the ATS news agency that the journalist was attending the event in a private capacity and not on behalf of RSI, which is also is declining any responsibility for the smashed masterpiece.
Online reports from British newspapers said the journalist was “tanked up on free cocktails” but this information was not relayed by Swiss media and could not be verified.
But the incident was likened to episodes from Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie, in which Rowan Atkinson’s clumsy and destructive character works for an art gallery — with predictable consequences.