Writing Art History Since 2002

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These days, any vandal worth his spray paint has his own video channel on YouTube. Or so one would think, given the recent flourish of internet video footage of art vandals casually defacing paintings in art galleries and museums.

Following last month’s astonishing e-TV footage of two men painting over Brett Murray’s “The Spear” in the Goodman Gallery, a cell-phone video has been released on YouTube showing a man defacing Pablo Picasso’s 1929 painting “Woman in a Red Armchair”. The painting, which was on show in the Menil Collection’s premises in Houston, Texas, is one of ten Picassos in the collection, and is considered one of the artist’s most important works. An unnamed museum visitor, who was allegedly sending a text message from his phone when the vandal approached the painting, managed to press record before the vandal applied a stencil to the surface of the painting and spray-painted an image of a bull directly onto the work. Under the image of the bull is the Spanish word “conquista”, which means “conquest” or “conquered”. There are mixed reports regarding the identity of the vandal; according to the original post on YouTube, he is a Mexican-American artist named Uriel Landeros, who claimed the act performed “in dedication to the art beast Pablo Picasso”. The museum has its own security footage of the incident as well, which is being used as police evidence in confirming the identity of the vandal. The painting was rushed to the Menil’s conservation department immediately, and conservators have been working tirelessly to remove the spray-paint from the surface of the work and to remedy any damage to the original paint. According to the museum’s spokesperson, the prognosis for the painting is good.

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