Man Vandalizes Jeff Koons Retrospective [UPDATED]

by Jillian Steinhauer on August 20, 2014

Vandalism today at the Whitney Museum's Jeff Koons retrospective (photo by and courtesy Laura Higgins Palmer)

Vandalism today at the Whitney Museum’s Jeff Koons retrospective (photo by and courtesy Laura Higgins Palmer)

A man briefly disrupted the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Whitney Museum this afternoon, splashing red paint against a wall and signing his name. He did not vandalize any artworks.

Palmer's selfie shows the vandal walking by on the right. (photo by Laura Higgins Palmer) (click to enlarge)

Palmer’s selfie in the Koons bunny (photo by Laura Higgins Palmer) (click to enlarge)

According to artist Laura Higgins Palmer, who alerted Hyperallergic to the intervention, the man threw red paint against the wall in a gallery on the third floor. Palmer said she was taking a selfie of her reflection in one of Koons’s silver bunnies when she noticed a man walking by with a black bag. When she turned around, a man was splashing paint on the wall, in what appears to be a kind of double X shape, although it could also be a human figure with arms and legs spread. The man managed to sign his name in marker underneath before being led away by security. Palmer says everyone was then evacuated from the third floor so that the wall could be repainted.

“I am a painter, same age as Koons, but my work is about painterly aesthetics, not in-your-face conceptualism,” she wrote to us over text message. “I am completely at peace with Koons, really enjoyed the show, and also can fully sympathize with the guy’s frustrations.”

Koons does have a knack for riling people up, and it seems likely that this was some kind of publicity stunt by an artist who feels overlooked. Unfortunately, it wasn’t fully successful because we can’t actually identify him from his signature. Can you?

Hyperallergic reached out to the Whitney Museum, which offered the following statement:

An isolated act of vandalism occurred this afternoon at the Whitney Museum of American Art involving a blank gallery wall on the third floor of the Jeff Koons exhibition. No artwork was affected or damaged in any way. Guards quickly apprehended the individual responsible. The police were called and they removed the individual from the museum. Following standard security protocol, the third floor of the museum was closed briefly and reopened within two hours of the incident.

Update, 8/20, 7:03pm ET: One of our readers has deciphered the name: Monty Cantsin, which, according to Wikipedia, is “a multiple-use name that anyone can adopt,” allegedly invented in 1978 by an artist named David Zack. “In a philosophy anticipating that of free software and open source, anyone should perform in his name and thus contribute to and participate in his fame and achievements,” Wikipedia says. The name is associated with Neoism, which Wikipedia identifies as a kind of subculture of parody and hoaxes; the New York Times calls it “an international anarchist art movement.”

Notably, one of the founders of Neoism, and a user of the name Monty Cantsin, is Hungarian-born Canadian performance artist Istvan Kantor — and the man in the Koons photo looks a lot like Kantor. According to articles in the Toronto Star and the New York Times, Kantor likes to make X’s with his own blood; he’s been banned for doing so on the walls of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and a host of other institutions. So, it looks like the vandalism at the Whitney is meant to be an X — except it was done in blood, not paint.

Update 2, 8/20, 7:08pm ET: We couldn’t resist sharing this tweet by a reader:

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 7.02.44 PM

Update 3, 8/20, 7:20pm ET: A Twitter commenter, @annakblair, pointed us to another incident in 2004 when Kantor, according to the BBC, “tried to squeeze a capsule of blood onto Jeff Koons’ Michael Jackson and Bubbles sculpture at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof gallery.”

In 2005, Kantor told the Japan Times that the museum distorted the reality of his action:

Kantor says the museum fed the media the story that he had intended to deface art, specifically the nearby Jeff Koons sculpture “Michael Jackson and Bubbles.” Although he vehemently denies this accusation, he does not deny the criminal nature of his actions. “I have always been breaking the rules of art,” Kantor said Sunday. “I call myself a “subvertainer” and I consider my criminal activities the most creative part of my work. My art was always anti-establishment and anti-institutional. My attitude always questions what is the relationship between artists and the institutional art world and the need for institutions. The whole ‘Blood Campaign’ is basically an ongoing anti-institutional project.”

Update 4, 8/20, 10:43pm ET: Kantor, via a Facebook account under the name Monty Cantsin Amen, wrote the following to a friend of Hyperallergic:

I just came out of mental hospital where the police took me after the Whitney I was discharged I am free I’ll put out my Supreme gift manifesto that I handed to the museum after the intervention tomorrow now I go out for a drink in the lower east side thanks for your support Monty

Correction: This article originally stated that the man photographed in Palmer’s selfie was also the vandal. That appears to be incorrect. It has been updated.

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  • larrybob

    You mean you’ve never heard of Monty Cantsin?

  • Tiernan BamBam

    What? Karl Lagerfeld vandalized the Jeff Koons show!!?

  • Edmond Caldwell

    I think larrybob nailed it — it’s Monty Cantsin . . .

  • rezearcher

    Yup, looks like larrybob is right. His signature is similar as shown on his web:

  • Stephen Romano
  • Stephen Romano

    Found this, might help contextualize his act at the Koons show.

  • 9271977

    Great. I wonder what his punishment will be

  • dan browne

    it’s definitely Istvan Kantor, and that isn’t red paint, it’s blood.

  • Frostmoth

    Istvan Kantor, winner of the Governor General’s award (& highest honour in the visual arts in Canada) mixing his blood with the mortar & walls of institutions since…..the 1970’s ?!?!

  • freshacconci

    That’s definitely Istvan Kantor.

  • raldoo

    Two citations of Wikipedia. Weak.

  • Daniel Luna

    Yes… The “rules” of art.

  • AnotherUserID

    Way to go hyperallegic detectives.. totally on the pulse, but not of anything with origins pre-dating the advent of high speed internet, I guess? *lol*

    • Hrag Vartanian

      Who has a memory past 1 day nowadays!?

      • AnotherUserID

        On the upside, not everyone…. and one day, when the internet explodes and technology is no more, we’ll be the wisefolk everyone comes to for life guidance *lol*

      • Shawn Chapman

        Report: Hamas to execute more suspected collaborators with Israel
        By KHALED ABU TOAMEH, REUTERS 08/22/2014 14:20

        18 Palestinians were killed by Hamas forces in Gaza; Witnesses say several Gazans executed by Hamas in public square.

        The Palestinian Facebook page posted a photograph of a mosque in Gaza City, where a crowd stood and waited in anticipation of more executions.

        Earlier Friday, Hamas security forces killed 11 suspected collaborators at a Gaza police station. Shortly afterward Hamas killed seven more Palestinians in a public execution in a central Gaza square on Friday, witnesses and a Hamas website said.

        The victims, their heads covered and hands tied, were shot dead by masked gunmen dressed in black in front of a crowd of worshipers outside a mosque after prayers, witnesses and al-Majd, a pro-Hamas website, said.

  • micah


  • micah
  • Brian Fernandes-Halloran

    I left the museum 20 minutes before he did this :( sob

  • fahrender

    Good for Monty.

  • pr

    this sort of thing makes me hate “conceptual” art.

  • brianeisley

    Wait, so he didn’t actually damage any Koonses? Dang. I got all excited over the headline for nothing.

    • Anarcissie

      How can you damage something by Koons? It’s not possible.

  • joachim plurivers

    hyperallergic “sensitive to art”…. not even knowing who’s monty cantsin, are you ok guys, you like your “job”? give us a break

    • Hrag Vartanian

      Sounds like you’re being sensitive.

  • Elvis Presley

    You know art really is starting to just plain suck.

  • 12(I)am

    the guy on the selfie is not Monty Cantsin

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      You know what, I think you’re right. Thanks, I will update the post.

  • Craig Rocman Vitello

    Wonder what type of empty hot sauce bottle he trusts with his bodily fluids?

  • Eric Kuns

    I have to admit that my initial reaction to someone vandalizing a work of art by Koons was jubilation. Obviously I was disappointed that a mere wall was scrawled on. Often Koons has multiple copies of his artwork made, like balloon dogs in different colors. They can all be remade by his assistants, as they are not so much unique hand made art objects, as they are high-end, low-output mass-produced commodities. Let it be said (by me), that I prefer a world with Jeff Koons’ art in it. I just think it is horribly overrated, and because it costs millions to produce, and requires teams of assistants to execute, precludes over 99% of other artists from ever hoping to compete (for financial reasons alone). My general dislike of Koons’ work is humorously, if a bit cruelly, summed up here:

  • rufty

    Ironic that work which really merits little public attention should also attract a vandal’s attention – a bit like pissing into the wind.

  • Simone de Brushcutter

    Headline should be – Self promoting woman in dreadful pink outfit takes appalling selfie self promoting off the back of a man self promoting off the back of mainstream corporate art institutions by daubing some rubbish on a wall

  • Frostmoth

    Hyperallergic: Now you’ve got to do a better piece on Istvan! It’s like a prize in Toronto if Kantor lights a candle in his butt at your street festival or if he publicly flagellates naked ppl while burning a pile of garbage and gets shut down by the cops. The blood thing is gimmicky and gets him banned a lot, but his aliensexfiend/robotsexacts stuff is pretty hilar.

  • jeff dabney

    Why would you publicize the vandals name and show an image of his damage? It just encourages others to do the same.

    • StudioLHP

      Part of the vandal’s “performance” was to have it documented by a professional photographer who then disbursed his “official” photos and prepared text to various press offices, including the New York Times. I applaud Hyperallergic for being the sole source of an alternate point of view.

  • jeff dabney

    Having just read the updates, I agree Hyperallergic handled it quite well. I wasn’t aware of the “performance” aspect to the “vandals” “work”. Not sure how I feel about that part.

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