Man Defaces Rothko Painting; Defends Himself By Claiming He Improved It

from the a-pattern? dept

A few weeks ago, we wrote about how the octogenarian woman in Spain, who tried (and… failed…) to “restore” a 19th-century fresco, and then tried to claim copyright on her work and demanded a cut of the church’s collection box, since the fresco was suddenly drawing many new visitors. Perhaps this “but I improved it” defense of defacing artwork is becoming more common. Apparently, a prankster, who claims to be pushing his own art movement, defaced a multi-million dollar Mark Rothko painting hanging at the Tate Modern gallery… and when tracked down by a reporter from The Guardian, defended his actions by claiming he had improved the value of the painting:

“I believe that if someone restores the [Rothko] piece and removes my signature the value of the piece would be lower but after a few years the value will go higher because of what I did,” he said, comparing himself to Marcel Duchamp, the French artist who shocked the art establishment when he signed a urinal and put it on display in 1917.

“I was expecting that the security at Tate Modern would take me straight away, because I was there and I signed the picture in front of a lot of people. There is video and cameras and everything, so I was shocked.”

“I didn’t destroy the picture. I did not steal anything. There was a lot of stuff like this before. Marcel Duchamp signed things that were not made by him, or even Damien Hirst.”

He basically signed his name to the photo and added “a potential piece of yellowism” which appears to be some sort of inane attempt at creating an art movement that nobody knows about.

We are, of course, big fans of remix culture and the ability to build on the works of others — but part of the reason why we like such things is that it can be done without doing anything to the original. Flat out defacing another’s work is not a remix or a mashup. It’s just vandalism.

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Comments on “Man Defaces Rothko Painting; Defends Himself By Claiming He Improved It”

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Anonymous Coward says: paraphrase ...

Oh, do ya? Well, that’s funny, because I happen to have Mr. Duchamp right here, so, so, yeah, just let me…

[pulls Duchamp out from behind a nearby poster]…

Come over here for a second… tell him!

Marcel Duchamp: I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work!…How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!

Anonymous Coward says:


Yes I did, and that is exactly where the waffling is at. See, Mike doesn’t like THIS soft of innovation, because he sees it as nothing more than vandalism. Yet, the same could be said for many of the remix artists that he tries to support on this blog.

It’s one of those cases where he allows both his taste and moral standards (eek!) judge good from bad.

I thought there was no place for moral arguments here.

The art work is now “more” than it was before. Does it suit your taste? Doesn’t matter. There is more, it has been innovated. Mike doesn’t like it, so it’s wrong.

Slippery those definitions, aren’t they?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Yet, the same could be said for many of the remix artists that he tries to support on this blog.”

Name one that actually does anything destructive to the original work. Just one, there must lots of them for you to make this claim. Just one link…

“The art work is now “more” than it was before. Does it suit your taste? Doesn’t matter. There is more, it has been innovated. Mike doesn’t like it, so it’s wrong.”

Please, take some lessons in reading comprehension. You still attack opinions that nobody holds, for saying things that they’ve never said.

Everything in this article is consistent with everything that has been said before. Is the original work still intact and undamaged? If yes (as with most remixes), there is no problem. If not (as in this case), it’s not acceptable. It has nothing to do with taste, just a question of whether or not the original artwork is affected in any tangible way (and no, “I think I could have sold more copies” is not a tangible effect).

Is that really too complicated for you, or are you just put off by the fact that it doesn’t leave an avenue for you to launch your flailing attacks that you have an obsessive need to make?

Anonymous Coward says:

Incredible guerilla marketing

From the Guardian:

[Rothko’s] work commands huge prices. In May, [Rothko’s] Orange, Red, Yellow was sold in New York for $86.9m (?53.8m) ? the highest price ever fetched by a piece of contemporary art at auction.

And Orange, Red, Yellow ?an undamaged Rothko? just became relatively more singular. Accompanied by a massive publicity burst. World-wide press coverage.

You think the people who purchased Orange, Red, Yellow want to unload at a tidy profit? What just happened to the value of their undamaged Rothko?

Of course, they aren’t the only suspects with motive. Anyone else who owns another undamaged Rothko just saw an increase in the value of their unique objet d’art.

Wonder how much you’d have to pay that yellowism loser? You can’t stiff him, or he’ll rat out your middleman.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

I think he’s got a point. He probably did increase the monetary value of the painting, even though he may have ruined its aesthetic value.

The problem is, this sort of defacing will only work so many times. You can’t really make a movement out of it because the value of the art only increases because of the scarcity of vandalism. If it did become a movement, all it would do is ruin artwork and make museums react by setting up more and more barriers between the art and the viewer, which would be bad.

What would be far more controversial is if he bought paintings and then defaced them. He would have every right to do that if he owned them. That would really drive prices up, because any time he showed up at an auction, people would bid like crazy to keep him from getting the works of art, knowing he would deface them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: on the other hand...

You break it, you buy it.

Pottery Barn is miffed.

?Rule that isn’t its rule upsets Pottery Barn? by Helen Huntley, St Petersburg Times, April 2004:

Could invading Iraq really have anything in common with sending a wine glass crashing to the floor while browsing at Pottery Barn?

Absolutely not, say the folks at Pottery Barn, who are miffed by a metaphor.?.?.?.

The real Pottery Barn has no such rule.

Miffed. Pottery Barn does not like that. It’s not how they operate.

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