It has been an inauspicious start for a year when Glasgow finally hosts the most prestigious, and contentious, arts prize in contemporary art.

It is not a good look, as people say, when a major work of contemporary art leaves one of a city-run gallery destroyed beyond repair. However, that was the fate of the Lamp of Sacrifice, the major work by Glasgow-based and trained artist Nathan Coley. It was loaned to Glasgow Life, the arms-length body that runs the city's museums and galleries, as part of the nationwide Generation show.

Generation, as you may have read in these pages, was the series of shows staged in galleries across the country last year to highlight the talent and success of Scottish contemporary art.

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The Lamp of Sacrifice was 286 scale models in cardboard of every 'Place of Worship' listed in the 2004 edition of the Edinburgh Yellow Pages telephone directory.

It was a work commissioned by the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. It took months to make, with Coley and an assistant working every day over weeks and weeks to complete the task. The work was purchased by the National Galleries of Scotland in 2004 with funds from the Cecil and Mary Gibson Bequest for £20,000.

But in mid-January this year, something went wrong in the upper gallery of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), where it was being displayed.

Glasgow Life have been investigating and a detailed report is now complete. A lot of water damaged the work. Around 60% of the work was beyond saving.

It was revealed last night that a humidification plant was largely as fault. The plant was 'provided by an external supplier', Glasgow Life say. They remain tight lipped on what they will do next in that regard.

Coley is not happy, as you might imagine: his words are reported elsewhere in today's paper. The destruction of a major contemporary art work like this is pretty much without precedent in Scotland. The National Galleries of Scotland, which own the work and had looked after it perfectly over years, must be dismayed. But in a statement they say the incident will not tarnish their relationship with Glasgow.

Coley and the NGS have resolved to remake the piece - exactly as it was before, not updated or refashioned - and it will take around six months.

In time, perhaps, for the Turner Prize show at the Tramway in Glasgow in September. Where, finally, Glasgow's remarkable success in the prize will be acknowledged with a show in the city that was or is home to former winners such as Douglas Gordon, Martin Boyce and Richard Wright, and Coley himself, who was short listed for the award in 2007. The short list for that show is due in May.

Already the case has, I understand, prompted questions in high places over the role of GOMA in Glasgow's cultural world. Perhaps a review of what GOMA does, who does it, and how they do it is due.

Maybe the Coley situation is a disastrous one-off. But it is a very bad start for a year when the eyes of the cultural world will be looking to Glasgow for excellence in contemporary art - both practice and exhibition.