This Sunday the work of Ai Wei Wei became the latest high-profile work of art to gain inclusion to a list most artists would rather avoid. Miami artist Maximo Caminero intentionally smashed one of Ai Wei Wei’s Colored Vases being exhibited at the Perez Art Museum Miami. The destroyed vase had an estimated value of $1 million. Caminero cited a lack of attention and support for local artists from PAMM (and an ignorance of the vase’s value) as the reason for destroying the artwork.
Caminero’s act of protest/vandalism played out much like this sort of situation typically does. The destructive act is followed by our collective gasp. This in turn is followed by the vandal’s weirdo-political reasoning, which prompts outrage, rebuke, and calls of “We shouldn’t be giving this guy attention – it’s what he wants!” However, I’m not so sure that last part is the best idea – attempting to understand what happened seems more prudent than ignoring it. I suspect due consideration of such vandalism would yield interesting and perhaps important ideas. Psychologically speaking, how is vandalizing a work of art similar to owning it? How do conceptions of private property or fame play into a desire to vandalize art? Why vandalize art rather than some other highly visible object? Click on any of the images below to start the slide show of other modern-day instances of art vandalism and be sure to let us know what you think.
As we mentioned, this past Saturday Maximo Caminero destroyed one of Ai Wei Wei’s 16 Colored Vases valued at $1 million.
In October of 2012 Vladimir Umanets vandalized a Mark Rothko at the Tate Modern in the name of Yellowism – an obscure Maxist-ish movement of his own creation. Regardless of how much or how little Yellowism seems to critically make sense, the act simply can’t seem to look like anyting but the work of an envious punk that earned him two years in prison.
Colorado’s Carmen Tisch caused $10,000 worth of damage to a painting by punching and scratching the work, then going on to “pulled her pants down to slide her buttocks against it” as Reuters puts it. She urinated in the paintings general direction, though it’s unclear if she managed to get any on the painting.
Weirdo-political reasoning comes into play once again with the vandalizing of Picasso’s Femme au Fauteuil Rouge. Uriel Llanderos spray painted a stencil onto the painting as a general dedication to “who have suffered for any injustice of every kind” and “to Picasso from artist to artist”. Of course. Llanderos also received a two year prison sentence.
Speaking of Picasso paintings getting vandalized…In Tony Shafrazi spray painted “KILL LIES ALL” in red on Picasso’s Guernica. Shafrazi’s reasoning may have not been so weirdo-political as regular-political but terribly expressed. Rather than what seems to be the requisite two year prison sentence, Shafrazi received an art career including becoming an art advisor for the Shah of Iran before opening his own private gallery.
In 2007 Rindy Sam damaged an all white Cy Twombly canvas with lipstick. Though it was often characterized as ‘kissing’ the image shows it was clearly something more…uh, spirited. Initial attempts to remove the lipstick using thirty different chemicals proved unsuccessful. Sam was levied fines adding up to just over 1,500 euros.
Also in France in 2007, a group of drunk people, returning from Nuit Blanche (a set of all-night art and music events) forced open a door at Paris’ Orsay Museum and eventually left a 4 inchi tear in Claude Monet’s Le Pont D’Argenteuil before setting off the alarm and fleeing.
Additionally in 2007 (not a good year for art) a 22 year old man with a history of mental illness attacked The Triumph of David, a painting by Ottavio Vannini. Disturbed by the severed head of goiliath, the man pulled the painting off the wall and begain stomping on it before eventually removing his shirt and lying on the floor allowing himself to be restrained.
Rembrandt’s Night Watch has been the subject of attempts at vandalism several times. In 1975 a man using a knife cut dozens of lines into the painting which can still be seen. In 1990 another man threw acid on to the painting. However, guards managed to dilute the acid with water before it penetrated beyond the painting’s thick layer of varnish.
Arguably the most famous painting and the best protected is also a popular victim of would-be vandals. In 1956, the painting was also subject to acid, its bottom portion being severly damaged. Most recently, in 2009 a Russian tourist threw an empty mug at the Mona Lisa. Predictibly, the bullet-proof glass held up and protected the painting.