Lately, works of art have regularly appeared in the news due to vandalism. But what makes a person want to vandalize a beloved work of art? Factors often vary greatly. Politics often play a role, as has been the case with the many recent protests led in museums by climate activists around the world. Often, personal interests can also become paramount, as with a variety of young provocateurs who target the artworks of others, sometimes even as part of their own artistic practices. In each case, however, the basic motive remains the same: to create confusion by disturbing the appearance or reputation of art that people know so well. Discover 14 cases of vandalism in the art world here.
1. A suffragette targets rokeby venus by Velazquez (1914)
Sometimes vandalism is linked to broader political conflicts, as was the case when a suffragette stabbed a painting on display at London's National Gallery. this painting, Rokeby Venus by Diego Velázquez (ca. 1647-1651), was stabbed by a knife-wielding Mary Richardson, who was spurred into action by the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst, a fellow suffragist protesting at Buckingham Palace in the effort to gain British women's right to vote. “I tried to destroy the image of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history,” Richardson once said. Although Richardson was only able to cut Venus at the hip and back, he did enough damage for the museum to close for two weeks while he restored the piece. Richardson was sentenced to six months in prison, during which time she led a hunger strike and was released after a few weeks.
2.Robert Rauschenberg erases a de Kooning (1953)
In 1953, Robert Rauschenberg started a project that involved erasing a pre-existing work of art. First he tried with his own drawings, but without data: he found the result inert. So he approached Willem de Kooning, an acclaimed abstract expressionist painter, and asked him for a work to erase. De Kooning agreed with some reluctance, leaving the young artist with a drawing. With an eraser, Rauschenberg scraped it off, leaving only a few faint traces behind. The result was, Erased by Kooning Drawing (1953), an unprecedented example of a work of art created by erasing another.
3. The Pietà is hit by a hammer (1972)
How many hammer blows does it take to seriously damage a Renaissance masterpiece? In the case of Michelangelo's Pietà, there were only 12. In 1972, Laszlo Toth, an unemployed geologist, delivered these dozens of blows, tearing off the Virgin Mary's nose and some marks on the head covering. The Vatican Museums undertook a meticulous 10-month restoration process, in which conservators reassembled the three nose fragments and the remaining 100 fragments that flew off during the hammering. (In a way, these conservators were lucky—contemporary experts said that if Toth had hit the work at a different angle, he would have taken Mary's head off.) In the end, the piece was as good as new and displayed behind a glass case. bullet proof. Toth was considered socially dangerous by a Roman court and placed in a psychiatric hospital, which he left after two years and was deported from Italy to Australia.
4. The Mona Lisa is spray-painted in Japan (1974)
The Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci just can't stop being hit somehow. In the last 110 years alone, it has been robbed, hit with a cup of tea and cake. But the most memorable vandalism in the play involved a Japanese woman named Tomoko Yonezu and a can of spray paint. In 1974, the work left the Louvre in Paris for the National Museum in Tokyo. There were many control measures because of the crowds and activists considered it discriminatory towards the disabled. Enraged by what she believed to be an example of ableism, Yonezu tried unsuccessfully to paint the Mona Lisa with spray. After his arrest, his trial became a cause celebre in Japan. She was eventually required to pay 300,000 yen, and the National Museum was forced to set aside a day for the disabled to visit the painting.
5. A famous art dealer protests civil rights inGuernica by Picasso (1974)
Tony Shafrazi is now best known as the first art dealer Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, but in 1974, he became famous for other reasons. That year, he marched to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where Picasso's Guernicait was on long-term loan and spray-painted the words “KILL LIES ALL” onto the modernist masterpiece. The phrase was actually a reference to a protest against the release of William Caley, a lieutenant convicted of his part in the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War; Shafrazi was also involved in anti-war actions led by the Art Workers Coalition. Shafrazi was charged with criminal mischief, and the painting was spared because its thick layer of varnish "acted like an invisible shield," William Rubin, then director of MoMA, told reporters. New York Times .
6. Night Watch Rembrandt's Is Cut by a Man Sent by the Lord (1975)
In 1975, Rembrandt's largest painting, The Night Watch (1642), was targeted by a man and a bread knife. According to this man, God (the “Lord”) had sent him to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and ordered him to cut the piece. Although the guards initially tried to hold him back, a dramatic scene ensued as they successfully cut a foot-long piece from the painting. "We must conclude that the canvas is badly damaged," said PJ Van Thiel, the museum's acting director at the time, when New York Times 🇧🇷 Because the work was in such good condition before the vandalism, museum restorers were able to return the painting to its original form within four years - although that didn't stop another man from attacking the same work, this time with an unknown chemist, in 1990.
7. fountain,Duchamp's readymade is used (1993)
No, you really shouldn't use fountain (1917), Marcel Duchamp's famous ready-made, which consists of an out-of-service urinal turned on its side. But, in homage to the anarchic sensibility of Dadaist work, at least two artists have tried. One of them, the famous composer Brian Eno, recently told how he accomplished this feat. The other, a French performance artist named Pierre Pinoncelli, also performed this act in a much more public way. While the work was on loan in Nîmes, France, in 1993, Pinoncelli urinated on the piece and then hit it with a hammer. Pinoncelli was put in jail for a month and made to pay a fine. That didn't stop him from achieving the piece once more, this time in 2006 in Paris, where it was exhibited in a Dada survey at the Center Pompidou. At that time, the porcelain sculpture was chipped and then restored.
8. A Canadian art student vomits on two masterpieces (1996)
Initially, it was thought to be an “unfortunate incident”, as the Museum of Modern Art described it. In 1996, Canadian art student Jubal Brown arrived at that New York institution and began spewing blue onto an abstract painting by Piet Mondrian. It turns out that, several months earlier, he had done something similar, having spit red on a painting by Raoul Dufy at the Art Gallery of Ontario. (No paintings were damaged in the process.) Even when both institutions considered legal action against Brown, the boy seemed proud of his protest, stating that his aim was to subvert "bourgeois" culture.
9. A Dutchman paints a dollar sign on an abstraction by Kazimir Malevich (1997)
Kazimir Malevich's abstractions are simple and transcendent, the kind of painting that leads the viewer to imagine planes of existence beyond reality. For a brief period in 1997, one of Malevich's paintings also became a statement about capitalist excess, thanks to the Russian artist Alexander Brener. Standing at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam dayBefore an abstraction depicting a white cross against an off-white background, he spray-painted a bright green dollar sign into the painting. Dutch police claimed that Brener tried to make an "artistic statement" through a painting valued at around $8.6 million at the time. Brener declared that the vandalism was a protest intended to highlight "corruption and commercialism in the art world". He ended up receiving several months in prison for the action.
10. An anti-art artist attacks a painting by Mark Rothko (2012)
Seagram's Murals Mark Rothko, initially made for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York and now housed at Tate Britain in London, are among his most beloved paintings. And so it caused quite an alarm when, in 2012, artist Wlodzimierz Umaniec tagged one of the murals on display at the Tate Modern with an ink message alluding to Yellowism, a self-proclaimed anti-art movement with which he was aligned. Umaniec claimed at the time that the gesture was artistic, but once he was sentenced to two years in prison, he changed his tune and apologized. Tate specialists were initially concerned that some of their messages had permanently stained Rothko's screen, but were able to restore it and bring it back into view some two years later. Seen now, it's hard to find any evidence of Umaniec's meddling.
11. Anish Kapoor's sculpture at Versailles is spray-painted (2015)
When Anish Kapoor showed the large steel sculpture Dirty Corner (2011–15) at the Palace of Versailles in France, it was attacked by critics, who compared it to a giant vagina. But Kapoor claimed it had no sexual connotations. The piece has also been attacked, in a more literal sense, by vandals, who have taken over the work several times. In at least one case, it was tagged with anti-Semitic messages. Kapoor, whose mother is Jewish, said she wanted to leave the spray-painted words intact, but a French court forced Versailles to partially cover up the work to hide the graffiti. In response, Kapoor said that "the racists in France won", and later even claimed that the vandalism was an inside job.
12.A gigantic work by Richard Serra in Qatar is repeatedly vandalized (2018-2020)
Richard Serra's East-West/West-East (2014), a set of four monolith-like steel plates set in the middle of the Qatari desert, has become a destination for lovers of minimalism – and vandals alike, who repeatedly marked the work over the years. The Qatari government has not released many details about the nature of these spray-painted phrases, but a report by theCNN from 2018 featured photos that showed what appeared to be messages of nationalist pride from Qatar, which seemed politically charged in light of the sanctions imposed on the country in 2017. In late 2020, Qatar announced that the works had been vandalized once again and that planned to prosecute those responsible. As of early 2021, six people have been arrested in connection with the vandalism.
13. A Banksy artwork is destroyed at auction (2018)
The elusive street art artist Banksy has long been known for showing unexpected artwork in unexpected places, but his most provocative gesture came when he vandalized his own artwork. This piece, the 2006 painting Girl with Balloon, was auctioned in 2018 at Sotheby's in London, where it sold for £1.1 million ($1.4 million). Seconds after the hammer struck, the painting began to slide across the frame and partially shattered. It remains unclear whether the auction house was informed of the situation in advance. This work now exists in its partially destroyed state as an entirely different work, which Banksy titled Love Is in the Bin.
14. Just Stop Oil Throw Tomato Soup On Vincent's Sunflowers Van Gogh (2022)
In 2022, climate activists launched a series of protests in which they glued themselves to the frames of iconic works of art in Germany, Italy and the UK, all in an attempt to spur governments to act more quickly to avert the threat of ecological disaster. These protesters took things to a new level when, at the National Gallery in London during Frieze Week, two Just Stop Oil activists threw tomato soup at Vincent's sunflowers. Van Gogh(1888). As the painting was under glass, it was not damaged. Indeed, the activists stated that they specifically planned a protest that would not harm the work itself. But many worked under the presumption that the Van Gogh it was subject to potential destruction, and a mass protest led predominantly by conservative pundits ensued. Other similar protests followed, including a protest involving mashed potatoes over a Monet in Potsdam, Germany, and another where oil was spilled on a Klimt in Vienna.