What is it with art vandalism these days? First there was the Picasso at the Menil Collection last summer, then the Rothko at the Tate Modern. Now a woman has defaced Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” at an outpost of the Louvre. Is this some kind of weird, terrible trend?
Sometime late in the day yesterday, a young woman tagged the iconic French painting with a black permanent marker, France24.com reports. She wrote “AE911” on the bottom right corner of the work, in an area measuring 30 inches long by 6 inches high, according to the AFP. The total work measures 8 1/2 feet wide and nearly 11 feet high.
The strangest part of the story is what “AE911” means, or might mean. Some are speculating that the abbreviation might refer to a group of 9/11 truthers, “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth,” who believe that the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11 could not have been caused by the terrorist planes alone. AE911 has a website and an online petition calling for Congress to conduct a “truly independent investigation” into 9/11, but at the moment — perhaps because of the news reports about the Louvre painting — the site appears to be down.
What a 9/11 conspiracy theory has to do with Eugène Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” isn’t at all clear, if that even is the intended meaning of the vandalism tag. The painting, done in 1830, is a canonical work of art commemorating the second French Revolution. An allegorical stand-in for Liberty, who notably appears as a fairly realistic, flesh-and-blood woman, leads revolutionaries from all social classes as she raises the tricolor flag, and as they step over a mound of dead bodies, which suggest that victory is hard won and not to be taken lightly. Perhaps Delacroix’s dramatic celebration of the French people’s triumph over the monarch who held them down inspired a truther interested in uncovering the presumably dark and sinister workings of the US government … ?! Still, I can think of a lot more relevant symbols to target, and if these crazy or attention-seeking people really insist on tagging things, I suggest they go find some outdoor walls.
While France24 said Louvre officials were still waiting on museum experts to determine the extent of the damage, the AFP reports that the vandalism is “superficial” and that the painting, which was hanging at the Louvre’s recently opened satellite museum in the city of Lens, should be cleaned fairly easily. The vandal is under arrest.