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.