The damage caused by the Polish Yellowist Vladimir Umanets to Mark Rothko’s painting “Black on Maroon” (1958) at the Tate in October could take up to 18 months to repair. The vandalism is, unfortunately, far worse than initially thought.
On October 8th, a homeless Russian émigré named Vladimir Umanets defaced a Rothko painting hanging in the Tate Modern in London with his name, the year, and the following fragment: A POTENTIAL PIECE OF YELLOWISM. “Black and Maroon” (1958), originally sporting a signature Rothko black rectangle on a signature Rothko maroon field, is valued at around 50 million pounds. The values of Yellowism are a little harder to get a hold of, though there is a Manifesto online, which outlines the aims of the movement with statements that are either obscure or silly, such as: “Every piece of Yellowism is only about yellow and nothing more. … ” and “Interpreting Yellowism as art or being about something other than just yellow deprives Yellowism of its purpose.”
We reached out to David Anfam, a Mark Rothko scholar and head of the Rothko catalogue raisonné project, to ask about the importance of “Untitled (Black on Maroon)” (1958) and the possible challenges facing the conservation of the work after Sunday’s incident.
Many people have been raising questions about how the media should treat attention whores like the Yellowists, who are obviously committing crimes to fan the fires of fame. This is a question that confronts any journalist when covering something that is both criminal and possibly a ploy to attract attention for specific purposes, like art sales. It’s a difficult quagmire to navigate.
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.
Picasso’s 1929 painting “Conquista La Bestia” (“Conquer the Beast”) was vandalized last week at Houston’s Menil Collection by a man with a can of spray paint. According to the city’s Local 2 news, he stenciled the image of a bullfighter killing a bull with the word “conquista” underneath.
If you’ve walked around New York, odds are you’ve seen Joseph Waldo’s work. The artist “defaced” city advertising by adding not the traditional scribbled pen mustache … but now the comedic artist has been arrested on charges including felony criminal mischief and possession of a graffiti instrument.
The Los Angeles Police Department caught and arrested two French nationals vandalizing buildings with “buckets of grout and pieces of tile” near the LA Museum of Contemporary Art’s Little Tokyo gallery this past Friday. One of the vandals seems to be the famed French street artist Space Invader, reports the LA Times.
An attacker “brandishing a felt-tipped pen” has vandalized a Basquiat painting on display at Paris’ Modern Art Museum, the Daily Mail reports. Yet the victim, a work called “Cadillac Moon 1981,” (seen at left) “is of such an abstract nature that it took at least a few days for experts to notice the graffiti.” Eventually, “The restorer of the exhibition noticed the work has been slightly marked with a pen,” said museum director Fabrice Hergott. So a minor mark was made on a painting whose creator was known for his own vandalism. Is this, or should this be, a big deal?