Security must be tightened at major museums internationally
A woman with mental health problems who also attacked a $100m painting by Gauguin in Washington earlier this year has struck again. This time the object of her disapproval was centered on a work by Henri Matisse. Susan Burns of Alexandria, Va., was arrested 5 August after police say she walked over to the 1919 Matisse titled, “The Plumed Hat,” grabbed both sides of the frame and banged on it, damaging the original antique gilt and gesso frame. The $12 million painting was luckily protected by a strong plexiglas box which prevented the canvas being exposed to Ms Burns frenzied and sustained attack. According to an arrest affidavit sworn by police Lt. Dexter Moten stated, “No damage to the painting itself was immediately apparent,” Moten said in the affidavit. Burns was charged with unlawful entry, contempt, destruction of property and attempted theft.
Back in early April the same woman attacked a key Post Impressionist painting on loan from the Metropolitan Museum in NY by Artist Paul Gauguin. The work valued at over 100 million pounds was pulled from the wall but undamaged. The Portrait was the centerpiece of the Gauguin exhibition, “Gauguin: Maker of Myth.” which traveled from Tate Modern in London had recently been installed at the National Gallery in the US capital. The painting titled “Two Tahitian Women” was Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY and a gift of William Church Osborn in 1949. It is a classic example and one of the most iconic by the artist.
The frenzied attack lasted only seconds and security was swift to stop the woman before it was damaged. She has been named as, Susan Burns, 53, of Arlington, Va. The diluted woman surprised gallery goers by shouting ,”I feel that Gauguin is evil. He has nudity and is bad for the children. He has two women in the painting and it’s very homosexual. I am trying to remove it. I think it should be burned,” according to the report she pounded on the painting which was protected by plexiglas. Burns added “I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.” She is now being held without bail, pending a mental health hearing Today. Burns is known to the police and has been arrested several times. She served six months in jail after a 2006 conviction for assault and battery on a police officer. In 2002, she was convicted of misdemeanor trespassing. In the latest incident she was charged with unlawful entry and brought to the city’s mental health facility.
This woman should be barred from entering museums in the future. There seems to be a problem obtaining an exclusion order and this has led to the well dressed Ms Burns slipping through security. The attack raises questions about security at the museum in general with the protection of some of the world’s most famous works of art an issue. A court docket indicates that Burns was to be “transferred immediately” from a D.C. jail to “St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and to be monitored closely.” A police officer also pointed out, “Maybe she just really hates art.”