The self-styled ‘Yellowist’ artist, who caused international outrage by tagging a 20th century masterpiece by Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko in the name of a pseudo movement that he created, has been jailed for two years. Wlodzimierz Umaniec surprised gallery goers in October as he icily stepped through a barrier at Tate Modern and using a black felt tipped marker scrawled graffiti on the canvas. The 26-year-old tagged his name Vladimir Umanets on the 1958 masterpiece titled Black on Maroon, and scrawled the message “A potential piece of yellowism” in reference to his self- created art movement. Sotheby’s told the Tate that the painting was worth between £5m and £9m before the damage. However the painting has a real market value of around £50 – £80 Million.
Umaniec’s actions “were entirely deliberate, planned and intentional”, was the final decision of Judge Roger Chapple s at the Inner London Crown Court, sentencing the criminal to two years in jail.The The Judge added it was “wholly and utterly unacceptable to promote his own form of art by damaging a work of art”. The Polish national, who resides in West Sussex, had admitted criminal damage to the value of over £5,000. The court heard that while he had gone to the gallery to put his “signature” on a painting, he only decided on the Rothko when he saw it on display. The Tate has sent the painting for lengthly conservation and it is thought it will take up to a year to restore the work to its original state. The work is likely to cost about £200,000 to fix.
Marc Rothko is one of the world’s most celebrated artists, and this act of vandalism is viewed as a tragedy. Rothko’s works consistently fetch high prices at auction, and “Black on Maroon” has an estimated value of tens of millions of pounds. Though the restoration process is expected to take quite a long time, Tate does have a strong team of conservators working to repair the damage. Meanwhile Umanets has plead guilty to criminal damage and was released on conditional bail. His sentencing will occur at a later date.
Mark Rothko had donated a number of canvasses to the Tate in 1969, which had originally been commissioned for The murals were originally commissioned for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York but when Rothko realised it was for a upmarket restaurant and not a workers cafeteria he withdrew from the project.
Rothko is one of the preeminent artists of his generation. He is closely identified with the New York School, a circle of painters that emerged during the 1940s as a new collective voice in American art. During a career that spanned five decades, he created a new and impassioned form of abstract Expressionist painting. Rothko’s work is characterised by rigorous attention to formal elements such as color, shape, balance, depth, composition, and scale; yet, he refused to consider his paintings solely in these terms. He explained: It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. Rothko is one of the most important post-war artists of his generation, His work has sold for tens of millions of pounds.