Well, that’s one way to make your mark in the art world…
On the first day of his new job working at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre in Yekaterinburg, a Russian security guard caused quite the scene: according to reports, he grew so bored that he doodled on a $1 million painting!
The victim was Anna Leporskaya‘s abstract piece, Three Figures (see here). Painted sometime in the early 1930s, the artwork features three vaguely humanoid figures without any facial features.
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Leporskaya, who passed away in 1982, was a student of suprematism — an avant-garde school of thought that pure artistic feeling is “supreme” over realistic, objective depictions of subjects.
However, the unnamed security guard apparently had a different vision as he grabbed one of the Yeltsin Center’s own branded ballpoint pens and gave two of the three figures pairs of eyes.
The incident was initially reported by The Art Newspaper Russia in December, when two visitors to “The World as Non-Objective. The Birth of a New Art” exhibition noticed the “improvements” to the piece, and told staff. On Tuesday, the gallery announced it had uncovered the culprit.
Fortunately, the doodler didn’t apply strong pressure to the canvas, so the damage wasn’t that deep. Still, the paper noted that the paint layer on the left-hand face in the painting had crumbled slightly. You can see the damage HERE.
The guard, who worked for a private security firm, was fired. Exhibition curator Anna Reshetkina told Russian website ura.ru of the ex-employee:
“His motives are still unknown but the administration believes it was some kind of a lapse in sanity.”
Per The Art Newspaper, prosecutors originally refused to press criminal charges, because of the “insignificant” damage to the artwork.
The Ministry of Culture begged to differ though: writing to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the agency demanded the crime be classified as “destruction or damage to cultural heritage objects and monuments”, which is punishable by up to three years in prison, a 3 million ruble ($40k) fine, or three years forced labor. So police opened up an investigation last week, with the incident eventually being classified as “vandalism,” which comes with a maximum sentence of 360 hours of forced labor and a 40k ruble ($5k) fine.
Meanwhile, the painting was returned to the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, which had originally loaned it to the Yeltsin gallery. Restoration will cost an estimated $4,500.
To prevent any more doodlers from striking, protective screens have been installed over the other works in the Yeltsin Center’s exhibition. Probably a good idea!
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