A Mark Rothko painting vandalized at
London's Tate Modern gallery 18 months ago went back on public view on
Tuesday after the first-ever effort to strip graffiti ink off a major
artwork without damaging the layers of paintwork.
"Black on Maroon" was attacked in October 2012 by an aspiring artist
who scrawled "Vladimir Umanets '12, A Potential Piece of Yellowism" in a
lower corner. One of the Seagram Murals commissioned for the Four
Seasons restaurant in 1958, the painting was valued at five million to
nine million pounds by Sotheby's. Rothko donated it to the Tate in 1970.
Polish national called Wlodzimierz Umaniec, also known as Vladimir
Umanets, claimed the graffiti was a creative act to promote his artistic
movement, Yellowism. He ended up pleading guilty to criminal damage and
was jailed for two years in December 2012.
at the Tate Modern, one of the world's most popular galleries, said
Rothko paintings were notoriously difficult to restore because of their
complex paintwork, which is made up of layers of oils, pigments, resins,
glues and egg.
A team of
three conservationists and scientists spent nine months researching and
testing about 80 solvents, six months removing the ink, and three months
restoring the surface.
one had ever used graffiti ink that is designed to be permanent to
damage a painting before and we knew how delicate the paint surface
was," Patricia Smithen, head of conservation, told Reuters in front of
the re-hung artwork. "We hope the work we did on this painting will
contribute to the conservation world in the future."
Director Nicholas Serota said the project had been far more successful
than anyone dared hope at the outset, recalling the sickening feeling on
being told of the attack.
Tate Modern dedicates a room to Rothko, who is considered one of the
20th century's most important artists. His Seagram Murals were a shift
from his earlier use of bright, intense colors for dark maroons, reds
security was reviewed after the attack but gave no details. He also
brushed aside questions about the cost of restoration or how it affected
the artwork's value. At Umaniec's trial, prosecution lawyer Gregor
McKinley told the court the restoration would cost about 200,000 pounds
"I have no idea what the value of the painting is and we are never going to sell it," Serota told a news conference.
has apologized for his actions, saying he now realized this had not
helped his movement, Yellowism, whose manifesto states it is "not art or
to the British people for what I did. I suppose I wanted to change the
art world ... but of course I did it in a very, very wrong way," he said
in a video statement that was sent to Reuters by his publicist.
spent almost a year and a half in prison and the British people have
paid huge restoration costs, so it definitely wasn't worth doing it.
Probably the only good thing is that the art world has received a very
strong message that something must be fundamentally changed about its
I am a member of the State of Florida’s Council on Arts & Culture. Supporter of Public Funding for the Arts. Advocate for the Visual Arts. Award winning gallerist with over 20 years experience. Please contact me with all your art needs.