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Rothko Seagram Mural Defaced; Visitor Snaps a Photo UPDATED

This is eerily and disturbingly reminiscent of last June’s videoed Picasso attack at the Menil Collection (here and here).

quoted a Tate spokesman saying this:

There was an incident at Tate Modern [today, Sunday] in which a visitor defaced one of Rothko’s Seagram Murals by applying a small area of black paint with a brush to the painting.

Reuters also reports:

Tim Wright wrote [my link, not theirs] on the Twitter micro-blogging site that he witnessed the incident and posted a photograph of the damaged canvas online.

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

The photo posted by Wright was too dark to be legible. With Photoshop, I made a “brightness” adjustment, revealing the vandalism in sickening detail.

From my Twitter feed:

Photo by Tim Wright (edited)

From the looks of this detail (lower right of the canvas). it appears that the painting (lightened in my edited image, above) is probably this one.

Mark Rothko, “Black on Maroon,” 1959, Tate Modern
© Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

[UPDATE: The Tate now says that the marred work was “Black on Maroon” from 1958, not 1959. It owns several works of that title and date and would not release an image of the affected painting.]

The Associated Press has now reported on what the rest of the graffiti appears to say and suggests who may have been behind it. The perverse act of making a “statement” by defacing museum masterpieces has a long and deplorable history.

[More on this, here.]

an ArtsJournal blog