On February 3, a visitor to Vanessa Prager’s new exhibition at Lower East Side gallery The Hole became a little too enamored with the artist’s lush and tactile paintings. As vlogger extraordinaire James Kalm recorded in the above clip short during Saturday’s opening, someone stuck their hand on at least one of Prager’s paintings and then proceeded to wipe colorful streaks of paint on surfaces throughout the gallery, from walls and a column to a bench — which, after some futile scrubbing, was disappeared by a gallery worker.

“Wandering through the show initially, I didn’t see anything out of order,” Kalm told Hyperallergic. “Then doing a closing shot I see a gallery attendant cleaning off a bench, and realize someone is doing a Jack the Smearer routine, smushing their hand in the paintings and slathering it around the gallery. I noticed smears on a bench, the walls, and on a column. I did speak with [the gallery’s director] Raymond Bulman and he said he’d spotted the culprit, identified him by his paint-stained hands, and thrown him out of the gallery.”

Hyperallergic reached out to The Hole and Bulman directly but did not receive a response.

Prager’s exhibition, In the Pink, marks her second show with The Hole and features 14 new paintings by the Los Angeles-based artist. Rendered in her characteristic mode of thick, gestural brushstrokes loaded with paint, many of them are commentaries on and responses to the art historical trope of the female nude. In Kalm’s video, though there are severable visible streaks of smeared paint around the gallery, the paintings themselves are not visibly damaged.

“Because the paintings are so texturally rich and exuberant, I’d be hard pressed to identify exactly where the damage occurred,” Kalm added. “I’ve since heard that other people have unintentionally backed into the paintings, while taking selfies and other meshugas.”

Vanessa Prager’s In the Pink exhibition continues until March 4.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...