Rothko Vandal Pursued by Police; Family Expresses Concern

A day after a visitor to London’s Tate Modern vandalized a Mark Rothko canvas by applying paint to a corner of it, Tate said police were pursuing a suspect, and Rothko’s children expressed sorrow over the incident.

At 3:25 p.m. local time yesterday, the visitor “defaced one of Rothko’s Seagram murals by applying a small area of black paint with a brush to the painting,” according to an e-mailed Tate release.

“The Rothko family is greatly troubled by yesterday’s occurrence, but has full confidence that the Tate Gallery will do all in its power to remedy the situation,” said the artist’s children, Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko, in an e- mailed release from the Pace Gallery (which has represented them since 1978).

Tate said police “are investigating and following up on information they have on the suspect.” The museum said it had “strong security systems in place including physical barriers, security officers in the galleries, alarms and CCTV.”

The Rothko painting has been removed and taken to the museum’s conservation team, which will determine the extent of the damage, Tate said.

The room where the painting normally hangs was cordoned off early today. Guards were on watch to make sure no one walked in.

An image of the vandalized painting, posted by a Tate visitor on Twitter yesterday, showed the following words painted, in dripping capital letters, by the vandal: “Vladimir Umanets ’12” and “A potential piece of Yellowism.”

Creative Attack

A man named Vladimir Umanets who said he was behind the incident spoke in a broadcast interview with the BBC earlier today.

“I’m not defacing this,” he told the BBC. “I believe that the most creative thing you can do in art is just to abandon this.”

Umanets said he co-founded a movement in 2010 called Yellowism. He indicated that the movement was aimed at demystifying established art and glorifying the color yellow.

“Art allows us to take what someone’s done and put a new message on it,” he was quoted on the BBC website as saying.

Rothko was commissioned in June 1958 to decorate the dining room of a restaurant inside the Seagram Building on Park Avenue in Manhattan.

He produced 30 paintings, though there was space for only seven, then called the whole thing off, deciding that a restaurant catering to the wealthy was not the right place for his art.

In 1969, he donated nine of the Seagram Murals to the Tate Gallery in London, where they are on permanent display in a room of their own.

Rothko committed suicide in his New York studio in February 1970. He was 66.

Muse highlights include Warwick Thompson on London stage, Scott Reyburn on the art market and Elin McCoy on wine.

To contact the writer on this story: Farah Nayeri in London at farahn@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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