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The Evolving and Bizarre Story of Houston’s Vandalized Picasso

Poor Picasso. His “Femme au fauteuil rouge (Woman in a Red Armchair)” (1929) was vandalized last week at Houston’s Menil Collection and the artist claiming responsibility for the action, Uriel Llanderos, has essentially been bragging about his bravado on his rather sparse Facebook page.

A close-up of the stencil someone vandalized on Picasso’s at the Menil Collection, Houston (screenshot from http://youtu.be/dhDgxNsLzgM)

But the story doesn’t stop there. The man who videotaped the attack claims he was not involved in the action, yet his YouTube video of the incident is clearly labeled with the supposed perpetrator’s name and the following words:

A photo of Uriel Llanderos from his Facebook page.

“Young Mexican-American artist URIEL LANDEROS, paints a stencil of a bullfighter killing a bull over an original 1929 Picasso painting in Houston TX.

**In Dedication to the art beast Pablo Picasso**”

Not exactly the label of an uninterested onlooker. Now this videotaping eyewitness, who is still claiming to not know the artist, has, according to Houston’s CultureMap, encountered the same man a few days after the event. They write:

” … the eyewitness said he unexpectedly bumped into the tagger-artist several days later and asked him about the incident. The vandal gave him a hand-written letter detailing his artistic motivations.”

What did the letter say?

“I dedicate this to all the people out there who have suffered for any injustice of every kind. To those abused by their loved ones. For those abused by their government. For those who were abused by organized religion. And to Picasso from artist to artist. The beast is meant to be conquered. Picasso loved bullfighting because he knew at the end of the dance, someone had to die and on the day it was his turn.”

Something is obviously fishy in this story. No one has been charged in the Picasso incident at the Menil Collection, which is strange in and of itself. CultureMap does report today that an email circulated among faculty and staff at the University of Houston on Monday that a student from the university has been linked to the crime, but nothing has been made public.

I know I’m not the only person who believes that the videotaper must be related or connected to the vandal, if it is indeed Llanderos. The Menil Collection confirmed to the Associated Press that the incident did indeed take place and they seem equally suspicious of the man who recorded the incident:

“People have wondered if this YouTube (video) was shot by a bystander who just happened to be there at that moment or if it’s more akin to perpetrators, plural,” [Vance] Muse[, a spokesman for the Menil Collection] said. “I just don’t know. But I hope we find out.”

So do we.

Editorial note: The original video that was posted soon after the incident (and previously found here) has since been removed from YouTube (and the account that posted the video has been closed) but the video remains online and we’ve replaced the video at the beginning of this post with another copy.

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