YouTube video

The first rule of social networking is that it’s very hard to make things private. It’s a decent bet that almost everything you post online is in some way accessible by people you don’t necessarily want to see it. This leads us the related first rule of art vandalism: if you did it, don’t claim it on YouTube or post about it on your Facebook page — unless you want to get charged.

Such is the case with 22-year-old artist Uriel Landeros, who appears to be the prime suspect in the Menil’s Picasso vandalism case from last week. Houston’s CultureMap reports that Landeros has been charged by the District Attorny’s office with two third-degree felonies: criminal mischief and felony graffiti. Crime Stoppers is even offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to charges or an arrest.

Uriel Landeros

A photo of Uriel Landeros from his Facebook page

For those who might have missed the story thus far, a man approached Picasso’s “Femme au fauteuil rouge (Woman in a Red Armchair)” (1929) in a gallery at the Menil Collection last week and stenciled the image of a bullfighter killing a bull and the word “conquista” onto it. Someone else caught the whole thing on his cell-phone camera and posted it on YouTube, identifying Landeros as the culprit in the caption, along with the words “In Dedication to the art beast Pablo Picasso,” which would seem to come from the vandal himself, or at least someone in on the whole thing. It’s unclear what the connection is between the two men, who just happened to run into each other again a few days later.

Landeros himself has left a vague, though easily followed, social media trail. On Facebook last week, he liked a link to a local Houston news report on the Picasso vandalism, which showed up on his profile page. Under it a friend commented, “what is wrong with you? stop posting this stuff.” We can’t help but think Landeros should listen to his friends.

Interestingly, he also changed his profile picture at the end of May to a painting of the word “Conquista,” though he’s since changed it back. And on his very sparse Twitter feed, Landeros made two seemingly telling remarks in the past few months:

Then again it’s entirely possible that Landeros is just trying to grab some publicity and attention for his fledgling art career, or cover for someone else. But according to CultureMap, the studio where he had been working and sometimes living was emptied out last week; the leaseholder, a friend of Landeros, hadn’t paid rent in over a month. And the police haven’t caught him up with him yet:

“Right now the suspect is not in custody, but we’re working with local law enforcement agencies to locate him,” assistant district attorney John Lewis told CultureMap Friday. “We have other persons of interest as well and we’re following up on all leads.”

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art and politics but has also been known to write at length about cats. She won the 2014 Best...

5 replies on “Artist Is Charged in Picasso Vandalism Case”

  1. I keep wondering what Landeros was hoping to achieve from this (assuming he actually did it). Notoriety, sure–but didn’t he realize that this was a crime? That at the very least, he’d be on the hook for a very expensive restoration? The whole thing is mystifying.

    1. Look at Tony Shafrazi’s vandalization of Quernica… then look at where it has gotten him. That was what this talent-bereft fool wanted.. a springboard towards wealth and fame.

      1. I think that’s definitely a possibility, although I, too, think the whole thing is sort of mystifying. I mean, if Landeros or whoever else did this did their homework and knew about Shafrazi, I wonder why they didn’t then do something ELSE. I mean, why not be original about it? Why does Picasso generate this response more than other artists?

        1. Why not be original? Same reason he needs to do this to jumpstart an art career… he CAN’T be original.

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