Pablo Picasso, “Bust of a Woman” (1944) (Photo by and courtesy of Paul O’Garra via flickrstream)

Pablo Picasso’s painting “Bust of a Woman” (1944) was removed from public display at Tate Modern in London after a man attacked and damaged it on Saturday, December 28.

The vandal was identified as Shakeel Massey, a 20-year-old from north London. He remains in police custody after being denied bail and awaits a pre-trial hearing on January 30.

Reports in British media say that Massey ripped the £20 million (~$26 million) artwork, but Tate refused to confirm any details about the scope of the damage.

“The work of art is with our conservation team for expert assessment,” a spokesperson with the Tate Modern told Hyperallergic. The museum added that the attacker was “swiftly apprehended” and that a police investigation is ongoing.

The artwork is one of many of Picasso’s depictions of French artist and poet Dora Maar. It was painted in Paris in May 1944, during the final months of the Nazi occupation.

Picasso has been accused of engaging in an abusive relationship with Maar. According to art historical accounts, he beat her into unconsciousness at least once. And in one other instance, he coaxed her into physically sparring with Marie-Thérèse Walter, the mother of one of his children, for his affection.

Another famous Picasso portrait of Maar is the earlier “Weeping Woman” (1937). Maar famously objected to Picasso’s depiction of her as a broken, crying woman. “All [Picasso’s] portraits of me are lies,” she later told the US writer James Lord. “They’re Picassos. Not one is Dora Maar.”

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

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