A 26 year old man has been arrested in connection with vandalising a £25 million pound painting by the US Abstract Expressionist artist Mark Rothko. The painting displayed at the Tate Modern in London has been removed for conservation after it was daubed with black marker pen during the gallery’s opening hours on Sunday.
A Russian man using the name Vladimir Umanets claimed responsibility for defacing the artwork. He told the BBC: “I’m not a vandal.” Mr Umanets, founder of a movement he calls Yellowism, claimed to be responsible but denied his actions were criminal damage. He said he was a big fan of the artist and added: “Art allows us to take what someone’s done and put a new message on it.”
The wording on the bottom-right corner of the piece appears to read: “Vladimir Umanets, A Potential Piece of Yellowism.” Umanets, who studied art, is one of the founders of “Yellowism”, a movement which he describes it as “neither art, nor anti-art”. ” It’s an element of contemporary visual culture. It’s not an artistic movement.
The man was arrested in Worthing last night by Sussex Police on behalf of officers from Scotland Yard. He was held at a Sussex Police station before being transferred to the capital for questioning hours after explaining his actions.
Born in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia) Rothko moved with his family to Portland, Oregon in 1913. His painting education was brief – he moved to New York to study under the artist Max Weber and then struck out on his own.
Mark Rothko is known for his abstract expressionism paintings, but he moved through more traditional styles in his early career, including Surrealist paintings in the 1940s. In 1947 he embarked on the first of his large abstract ‘colour-field’ paintings, formalising their structure further in the 1950s.
Rothko had huge success with largescale solo shows, including a show at the Whitechapel in London, but suffered depression and committed suicide in 1970.