LONDON — British police on Tuesday charged a 26-year-old Polish national with vandalizing a priceless Mark Rothko work at the Tate Modern museum, an act that caused a minor stir in the U.K. art world.
Scotland Yard said in a statement that Wlodzimierz Umaniec would appear at south London Camberwell Green Magistrates' Court in south London court on Wednesday charged with one count of "criminal damage in excess of 5,000 pounds (about $8,000)."
Umaniec, who also went by the name Vladimir Umanets, was arrested after patrons discovered a scrawl across the bottom of a Rothko mural on Sunday.
The Russian-born Rothko was a leading figure in American abstract painting, renowned for large-scale works featuring bold blocks of color, and the vandalism angered many.
The artist's children, Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko, said in a statement that they were "greatly troubled" by the incident.
While the Tate Modern has said it does not have a price for the defaced piece, another Rothko piece – "Orange, Red, Yellow" – sold for almost $87 million at auction in New York.
This is not the first time an artwork at Tate Modern has been interfered with. In 2000, two Chinese performance artists attempted to urinate on Marcel Duchamp's urinal sculpture "Fountain."