Russian man confesses to defacing Mark Rothko painting in London

By Arturo Garcia
Monday, October 8, 2012 8:38 EDT
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Mark Rothko painting defaced via Tim Wright Twitter 100812
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A Russian man claimed responsibility Monday for defacing a painting by American modernist Mark Rothko at London’s Tate Modern gallery, saying it was part of a fringe arts movement he helped create.

According to The Telegraph, Vladimir Umanets did not say where he lived but did confess to writing his name and the phrase, “A Potential Piece of Yellowism” on Rothko’s 1958 piece Black On Maroon Sunday.

Local police are still looking for the culprit but had not identified Umanets as a suspect. However, Umanets said he expected to be arrested soon.

“I believe that from everything bad there’s always a good outcome so I’m prepared for that,” he said. “Obviously I don’t want to spend a few months, even a few weeks, in jail. But I do strongly believe in what I am doing, I have dedicated my life to this.”

Umamets described “Yellowism” as “neither art, nor anti-art,” and said it was an element of modern art culture. He also said he did not intend to spoil Rothko’s work, and might actually have increased its value.

“Some people think I’m crazy or a vandal,” he said. “But my intention was not to destroy or decrease the value, or to go crazy. I am not a vandal.”

The BBC reported that the gallery closed briefly following the discovery of the defaced painting. A witness posted a picture of the writing on Twitter.

“This guy calmly walked up, took out a marker pen and tagged it,” he wrote. “Surreal. We gave a description to the gallery. Very bizarre. He sat there for a while then just went for it and made a quick exit.”

A local conservator, Julia Nagle, said she was confident the painting would be restored.

“The first thing you need to know is what the painting was originally made of, in order to distinguish between the solubility of what you want to get rid of and the original painting,” she told the radio show Today. Fortunately, in the case of Rothko, there’s a massive body of research into his techniques – and a great conservation department at Tate.”

Watch a BBC report on the incident, posted on YouTube Monday by “Oscars2013,” below.

[Image via Tim Wright on Twitter]

Arturo Garcia
Arturo Garcia
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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