LONDON Oct 8 A man who claims to have defaced a
major painting by Mark Rothko over the weekend in London said on
Monday that Marcel Duchamp, the French artist most famous for
his 1917 urinal that shocked the art establishment, would be
"happy" at what he had done.
Police are investigating the incident on Sunday at Tate
Modern gallery on the River Thames, where witnesses saw a man
approach Rothko's 1958 canvas "Black on Maroon" and inscribe it
with black ink in the lower right-hand corner.
Although the ink had run down the canvas, a photograph
posted by a witness on the Twitter website showed the words:
"VLADIMIR UMANETS '12, A POTENTIAL PIECE OF YELLOWISM."
A man answering a mobile phone number provided via a link on
the website of the "Yellowism" movement
(www.thisisyellowism.com) answered to the name of Vladimir
Umanets and told Reuters he had carried out the attack.
"I'm aware they (the police) will come at some point and
arrest me," he said, speaking in an eastern European accent.
"It was an artistic statement, but it was more about having
the opportunity to speak about galleries and art," he added,
explaining his actions.
"Marcel Duchamp, when he made 'readymades' (art), everyone
was shocked. I don't want to be considered a vandal or someone
who wants to destroy something, especially such a valuable
"It's more about to change perception of things, of
spectators. It's more about an idea."
Duchamp's iconoclastic urinal, entitled "Fountain" and
featuring the words "R.Mutt", is considered one of the most
influential works of the 20th century by challenging people's
understanding of what constitutes art.
"What I do believe is the most creative thing left to do in
contemporary art today is to abandon this (art) and Marcel
Duchamp was trying to do this," Umanets said.
"I'm not saying I'm another Marcel Duchamp. I'm not a
tag-maker. I'm doing my own thing ... After Duchamp, nothing
actually happened. I definitely believe that Marcel Duchamp
would be really happy."
In its online manifesto, "Yellowism" is described as neither
art nor anti-art and that the "context for works of art is
The Metropolitan Police said the suspect was a white man
believed to be in his late-20s. No arrest has been made.
A Tate Modern spokeswoman said the painting would be
repaired by an in-house team of experts. Asked whether the
gallery, one of the world's most popular, was considering
beefing up its security, she replied in a statement:
"Tate has strong security systems in place including
physical barriers, security officers in the galleries, alarms
In the case of the Rothkos, which are hanging on Level 3 of
the converted power station, the barrier is a low wire.
The damaged work was one of the "Seagram Murals" the
Russian-American artist was commissioned to paint in the 1950s
for the new Four Seasons restaurant in New York.
Several ended up in the Tate collection after they were
given as gifts before Rothko took his life, and Tate describes
the famous series of soft-edged rectangles as "iconic".
No one knows why the artist abandoned the bright, intense
colors of his earlier canvases and painted in dark maroons, reds
and black, but one theory is that he said he wanted to "ruin the
appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room."
Rothko is considered one of the 20th century's most
important artists, and in May, his "Orange, Red, Yellow" sold
for $86.9 million, a new auction record for the artist, at
Christie's in New York.
Tim Wright, who witnessed Sunday's attack, wrote on Twitter:
"This guy calmly walked up, took out a marker pen and tagged it.
Surreal ... Very bizarre, he sat there for a while then just
went for it and made a quick exit."
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White)