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Don't Go Breakin' My Art
July 26, 2007 3:48 PM   Subscribe

Art Crimes is a fascinating site about the history of vandalism in the fine arts, recently revived by a Frenchwoman who left a lipstick imprint on a 2 million dollar painting by Cy Twombly. Other examples include a British suffragist attacking a Velazquez with a knife, an installation vandalized by the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, two Chinese performance artists who urinated into Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, and a Canadian art student who vomited blue gelatin on a Mondrian. Oddly enough, the artwork that has weathered the most attacks is Rembrandt's The Night Watch, which has survived two knife attacks (one by an unemployed teacher with a butter knife) and an attack by a mental patient who had a compulsion to fling sulfuric acid at fine artworks. Other art vandalism methods, including glass cutters, hammers, scissors, guns, and ink, are discussed here.
posted by jonp72 (38 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Could someone educate me here?

I think that urinating into Duchamp's Fountain was quite a funny prank, one that Duchamp, I expect, would have appreciated.

But I do not understand what makes it an art project. Am I just too literal-minded to get it?

Also, this is a fine post and a hilarious title.
posted by ibmcginty at 4:01 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


The truly pretentious question is "Can art be vandalized? Ir can be changed certainly but is that vandalism? Or simply the gaining of a new contriibutor?"
posted by Rubbstone at 4:06 PM on July 26, 2007


I don't see what's truly pretentious about that question. The story about the woman kissing the painting is great.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:09 PM on July 26, 2007


Monty Cantsin once took vials of his own blood into a museum and threw them at a Picasso. As the police dragged him away from the scene he was quoted screaming, "NOW it's art! NOW it's art!"

It is always six oclock! AHORA NEOISMUS!
posted by ZachsMind at 4:10 PM on July 26, 2007


Post-Irony dictates that all art is a lie, except when its not.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 5:04 PM on July 26, 2007


Erotic Twombly.
posted by progosk at 5:13 PM on July 26, 2007


Art crimes? I got your art crimes right here. His name is Terry Redlin, and he is the mortal enemy of anything that can be called 'art'.
posted by quin at 5:13 PM on July 26, 2007


The truly pretentious question is "Can art be vandalized? Ir can be changed certainly but is that vandalism? Or simply the gaining of a new contriibutor?"


yes. yes. no.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:19 PM on July 26, 2007


Bravo! BRAVO!
posted by R. Mutt at 5:24 PM on July 26, 2007


quin, I'll see your Terry Redlin and raise you Christian Riese Lassen.
posted by flod at 5:24 PM on July 26, 2007


It usually seems to be the best art that gets attacked. I can't seem to ever recall someone caring enough to attack a Thomas Kincade...
posted by R. Mutt at 5:30 PM on July 26, 2007


*Follows flod's link... shudders*

These villains should be stopped.

I actually remember the first couple of Thomas Kincade prints that came in (this would have been in '93 or so), I kind of liked them. There was nothing else on the market like it.

Then, after about two years of selling several dozen variants on the same painting, I realized that his stuff wasn't ever going to get any better.

A few years later, after I got out of the business, I noticed that he had whole stores dedicated to selling his prints and I decided that he had just become another mass production Redlin wannabe.
posted by quin at 5:41 PM on July 26, 2007


Of course, the site only covers from 1982 on. Which means it is missing ...

During the Vietnam War, the room containing the painting (Guernica) became the site of occasional anti-war vigils. These were usually peaceful and uneventful, but in 1974, Tony Shafrazi — ostensibly protesting Richard Nixon's pardon of William Calley for the latter's actions during the My Lai massacre — defaced the painting with red spray paint, painting the words "KILL LIES ALL"; the paint was relatively easily removed from the varnished surface. Wiki

Interestingly, Tony Shafrazi went to to be a NYC art dealer who sells, among other things, Picassos.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:41 PM on July 26, 2007


flod, I'll see your Christian Riese Lassen and I'll go all in.
posted by dersins at 5:45 PM on July 26, 2007


There was the hammer throwing at Piss Christ in Melbourne a while back.
posted by mattoxic at 5:58 PM on July 26, 2007


Duchamp's Fountain was also attacked with a hammer recently.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:09 PM on July 26, 2007


I dunno, Dersins--Kinkade's seascapes are pretty horrid, but throw a white unicorn in the mix, and you've got a whole new level of art crime.
posted by flod at 6:25 PM on July 26, 2007


YOU FUCKING BROKE MY EYES

YOU MOTHERFUCKERS

YOU WILL BURN FOR THIS
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:35 PM on July 26, 2007


"The truly pretentious question is "Can art be vandalized? Ir can be changed certainly but is that vandalism? Or simply the gaining of a new contriibutor?"

"yes. yes. no."


Hello! Vandalism is a form of art, thank you very much.

"It usually seems to be the best art that gets attacked."

Or more specifically, the more publically viewed works. Vandals or Dadaists or other 'interested parties' in this line of activity tend to only confront or attack works which are being accepted by the mainstream viewership at the time, essentially because their art is more performance or shock oriented. It's pointless to put a moustache on a copy of an ad you see in a magazine, unless you then take that picture and post it somewhere people can see it.

Put a moustache on the (original) Mona Lisa tho, people will notice. You also may be shot on sight. But make no mistake, such an act would be considered art by some people.

What is art? Expression. An object that represents that expression, or the action of causing that object to achieve fruition. Sometimes the artistic action is to destroy, or to create something just to destroy it. Dada is a perfect example of art as chaos, where the message doesn't really exist or rather the artist doesn't care much if the message you get is the same as the one he intended to make.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:40 PM on July 26, 2007


I hate you all.

Tonight, my nightmares will contain iridescent, glowing waves populated by cosmic dolphins frolicking with wise and noble sun-dappled gray hales, the waves crashing at the foot of a soft-lit, glowing cobblestone bridge near a soft lit, glowing light house with a unicorn in it - all beneath a rainbow and the glowiest sunset ever.

I'm going to be painting the same canvas with flat black for a month just to be rid of all that.
posted by loquacious at 6:45 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Kinkade's seascapes are pretty horrid, but throw a white unicorn in the mix, and you've got a whole new level of art crime.

I'm seriously reconsidering my stance on the death penalty.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:50 PM on July 26, 2007


Huh, I always thought this was what people meant by Art Crimes.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:09 PM on July 26, 2007


Yeah, flod, but it's possible to avoid stuff like Lassen. Kinkade "wins" on sheer ubiquity.
posted by dersins at 7:11 PM on July 26, 2007


The truly pretentious question is "Can art be vandalized? It can be changed certainly but is that vandalism? Or simply the gaining of a new contributor?

Is vandalizing street art "vandalism," or "contribution?
New York's Paint Splasher -- Vandal.

Previous thread from last month: The Splasher: Caught?
posted by ericb at 7:11 PM on July 26, 2007


and by "wins" I mean "We all lose."
posted by dersins at 7:12 PM on July 26, 2007


Art Crimes has NEVER BEEN ON METAFILTER?!?!?

Nice post! I'm just amazed because this was a site I discovered in middle school AKA 10 or so years back(it's when I learned how to spell graffiti)...I would've never guessed I'd happened upon such a secret of the interwebs...
posted by rollbiz at 7:35 PM on July 26, 2007


Back in 1986 I attempted my own form of art vandalism at the Corcoran. I tried to photograph some painting with my kodak disc camera and was nearly knocked unconscious by a guard. I stayed away from the museums the rest of that summer and hung out at Commander Salamanders instead.
posted by Sailormom at 7:38 PM on July 26, 2007


Hello! Vandalism is a form of art, thank you very much

I just arted your boss's house and signed your name in yellow spraypaint. I did this because you used the sarcastic hello.
posted by longsleeves at 7:39 PM on July 26, 2007


Wow. I'll have to admit I went to all but the leading link. The Art Crimes I was thinking of was the old school graffiti website.


Apologies for posting hastily when consuming beverages...
posted by rollbiz at 7:41 PM on July 26, 2007


it's possible to avoid stuff like Lassen

Not if you live in Hawaii. :( We also have to contend with Wyland.
posted by flod at 7:45 PM on July 26, 2007


I'm going to be painting the same canvas with flat black for a month just to be rid of all that.

AHHH... yes, one for our side.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:47 PM on July 26, 2007


rollbiz, apparently you didn't click on my link either; no prob. But yeah, graffiti.org is definitely the OG of internet Art Crime.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:28 PM on July 26, 2007


A crime against Ken Done.
posted by maxwelton at 8:38 PM on July 26, 2007


Yes, but is it Vandalism?
posted by Lleyam at 11:00 PM on July 26, 2007


There's a far more comprehensive and interesting list of instances of art vandalism in this Cabinet Magazine article. It includes the 1987 sawn-off shotgun attack on a Leonardo cartoon in London's National Gallery, which is probably the UK's most famous attack.
posted by roofus at 4:51 AM on July 27, 2007


"Curtains," a large Lichtenstein canvas, was on from the St. Louis museum to the Whitney when a security guard disfigured it. . . .Mr. Walker used a felt-tip marker to write "I love you, Tushee, Love, Buns" and to draw a heart inscribed "Reggie + Crystal 1/26/91" on the work.
posted by armacy at 7:16 AM on July 27, 2007


Mustn't forget the horrific 1972 attack on Michaelangelo's Pieta at the vatican by a sledgehammer wielding maniac. He got fifteen blows in and knocked of her arm and nose.
posted by wsg at 9:50 AM on July 27, 2007


Fascinating post jonp72.

In your first link the author states: "For the purpose of this site, the parameters set for what constitute an "art crime" involve those acts within the confines of a museum or gallery space where a work is willfully damaged. Acts of vandalism outside these confines, may be reduced to an act of hooliganism whether or not that was the intended aim especially when they lack a raison d'être."

It seems like most of the art destroying was done by mentally ill people, suffering all kinds of pathologies.

In your last link to Cabinet Magazine online the stories are listed more simply as vandalism and the tools used to commit the crimes.

For 15 years I worked as a street vendor near the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. When the MOMA security guards came out for a break we often chatted about the goings on in the museum. They had many stories of vandalism or attempted vandalism. Like somebody walking by a Jackson Pollock and depositing a gob of chewing gum on the painting, scribbling stuff on paintings...In an atmosphere of museum veneration it's tempting to be iconoclastic, but it seems some people actually risk acting out that impulse.
posted by nickyskye at 10:42 AM on July 27, 2007


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