Vladimir Umanets, aka the Rothko vandal, appeared in court yesterday and pled not guilty to criminal damages on the Mark Rothko painting he defaced at the Tate Modern in London, according to the Telegraph. The painting has an estimated worth around $80M, and the unbelievable story of how it got tagged is below. Umanets, whose birth name is Wlodzimierz Umaniec, will next appear in court on October 16 for a second bail application, so stay tuned for more details.
A 26-year-old man has been arrested on Monday evening in connection with the criminal damage to a Mark Rothko painting at Tate Modern on 7 Oct— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) October 8, 2012
On Sunday, Tate Modern visitor Tim Wright tweeted that a man approached and defaced a Rothko mural before calmly exiting the building. And so began a hunt for clues aggregated by both bloggers and investigative forces, which eventually led to the arrest of artist Umanets/Umaniec.
According to the police statement the 26-year-old man had been arrested about 60 miles south of London, in a small town called Worthing. Prior to his arrest, Umanets spent the day explaining the artistic motivations behind his crime of passion to various media outlets.
The bottom right corner of Rothko's 1958 canvas "Black on Maroon" now read: "VLADIMIR UMANETS '12, A POTENTIAL PIECE OF YELLOWISM," leading interested parties to the online Yellowism manifesto, thisisyellowism.com, which boldly listed Umanets' name and phone number. (The contact information has since been removed.)
"I know what the legal consequences are, but I do not think I committed a crime. On the contrary, I would not like to end up in jail," Umanets told ABC News. Police arrested Umanets late Monday evening and held him on suspicion of criminal damage. A representative from the Metropolitan Police Force told The Huffington Post that Umanets remains in custody and has not yet been charged. The fine and any possible sentencing for Umanets' crime remains unknown, although we doubt the jury will be swayed by his argument that "the value will go higher because of what I did."
A conservationist at the Tate assured the Telegraph that Umanets' tag could be removed; in fact, she had "every faith it will be cleaned off" because the team there is knowledgable about Rothko's techniques.." Yet the price of such a process remains unknown, as does the value of the Rothko work itself since it was donated to the Tate. Yet if the price is anything like the record-breaking $87 million a similar Rothko brought in May of this year, Umanets could be looking at quite a fine.
To make his troubles worse, the artist is homeless, according to Time. "I am a really poor man, I am homeless, I will never be able to pay for this piece," Umanets said.
Check back in for updates as more information is revealed on the fate of this homeless artist/vandal. On a positive note, Umanets has the artosphere talking about Yellowism, the movement that claims to be "not art or anti-art." Mostly, though, the internet is not impressed.
See other works of art that have been vandalized in the name of art below and let us know if you think there is any artistic merit to Umanets' crime in the comments section.
Art-Making Made Queasy
In one of the less appetizing cases of art vandalism, 22-year-old art student Jubal Brown vomited primary colors onto Mondrian's "Composition in Red, White and Blue" at the MoMA in 1996. The pre-digested medium was made of blue cake icing, blue Jell-O and blueberry yogurt, and was part of a three-part performance piece called "<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1996/12/08/weekinreview/no-stomach-for-art.html">Responding to Art.</a>" For the second part Brown spewed some red onto a Raoul Dufy work in Ontario, but was stopped before a third work received an unexpected splash of yellow.
A Dream Come True
In 2001 artist Jacqueline Crofton had a dream, a dream that one day she would throw eggs at Martin Creed's Turner Prize winning work, "The Lights Going On and Off," a room where the lights go on and off. Crofton followed through with her dreams, tossing two eggs into the darkened room at the Tate, from which she was life banned. In a sea of male vandals Crofton represents the female minority. <a href="http://artcrimes.net/lights-going-and">In her words:</a> "What I object to fiercely is that we've got this cartel who control the top echelons of the art world in this country and leave no access for painters and sculptors with real creative talent."
Making Goya Grosser
Jake and Dinos Chapman were used to pissing off the public with their controversial artworks, including bronze dolls engaged in mutual oral sex. But nothing was quite as shocking as when the enfants terribles purchased and vandalized complete set of Goya's etchings, The Disasters of War. The beloved etchings were made even more horrifying with new faces including that of a sad-clown-Hitler and mutated Ronald McDonald. Although the brothers' mischievous audacity horrified many, many critics dubbed the statement "powerful." Jake explained his rationale to the <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2003/mar/31/artsfeatures.turnerprize2003">Guardian</a>, saying "To produce the law, one has to transgress it."
The Accidental Postmodern
Perhaps the most beloved case of art vandalism occurred at the hands of an artist with no intention of becoming famous. Octogenarian Cecilia Gimenez was only trying to retouched a damaged 19th century fresco of Jesus when things got a little out of hand, resulting in the furry sci-fi creature that has launched a million memes. Whether or not this restoration fail is a work of vandalism, a work of postmodern genius, or a work of someone who needs glasses is up for debate. In the meantime, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/octogenarian-restorationi_n_1899747.html">Gimenez wants her royalties</a>.
Oftentimes when an artist disrupts an artwork, they have a clear artistic mission in mind. But sometimes they're just hungry. Ed Brzezinski was craving a snack when perusing the Paula Cooper gallery in 1989 when he stumbled across a lone donut and took a bite. Turns out the donut was part of Robert Gobers' exhibition, which also included a drain and a bag of kitty litter. Brzezinski ended up owing the gallery $8,000 for the sweet, which, turns out, was covered in preservative chemicals. This explains why Brzezinski thought it "<a href="http://www.temporaryart.org/artvandals/12.html">tasted stale.</a>"
The Questionable "Conquista"
Uriel Landeros sauntered up to Picasso’s 1929 painting “Femme au fauteuil rouge (Woman in a Red Armchair)” this summer and gave the painting a little retouch in the form of a bullfighter killing a bull with the word “conquista” beneath it. The whole thing was caught on tape in one of the most awkward YouTube videos ever. Landeros himself is an artist who was trying to honor Picasso's work; <a href="http://blogs.artinfo.com/artintheair/2012/06/26/portfolio-review-the-art-of-houstons-fugitive-picasso-vandal-uriel-landeros/">ArtInfo</a> even did a review of his Facebook portfolio. Apparently his work "not only features the same Picasso-inspired image of a bull and bullfighter that he stenciled onto the de Menil canvas, but juxtaposes this primal, ritual duel with symbols of humanity’s fundamental split between male and female traits."
Paint It Black
In 1994 unemployed artist Mark Bridger approached Damien Hirst's 'Away from the Flock,' a white sheep floating in formaldehyde, and poured black ink into the tank. Bridger described his un-sheepish intervention as a "<a href="http://www.temporaryart.org/artvandals/02.html">carpe diem moment</a>," adding: "To live is to do things, I was providing an interesting addendum to his work.."
Picking on Picasso
Although now a super swanky gallerist, back in the day Tony Shafrazi was a budding artist/ amateur vandal. In 1974 he spray painted “Kill Lies All” on Picasso's "Guernica" in the MOMA. He later told Art in America: "I wanted to bring the art absolutely up to date, to retrieve it from art history and give it life."
Pissing on Tradition
Marcel DuChamp's "Fountain" has served as the guiding light for many an art-prankster, often distantly and sometimes very tangibly. Chinese outsider artists Yuan Cai and Jian Jun Xi saw the work as an "<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2000/jun/11/features.review37">invitation</a>" to take the artwork further... and pee on it. "As Duchamp said himself, it's the artist's choice. He chooses what is art. We just added to it," said the artists who call themselves "ahead of their time."
"I Love You Tushee Love Buns"
Reginald Walker was a 21-year-old guard at the Whitney Museum when he felt the need to express his love, and ASAP. Walker took a felt-tipped pen to Roy Lichtenstein's "Curtain," and drew a heart surrounding the inscription "Reggie and Crystal, I Love you Tushee Love Buns." We love <em>you</em>, Reginald.