Rothko-daubing Pole sent to prison
A Polish man who scrawled his signature on a Mark Rothko painting worth millions of euros was jailed for two years by a British court today.
Wlodzimierz Umaniec - known also as Vladimir Umanets - stepped over a wire in front of Rothko's Black on Maroon in London's Tate Modern gallery in October and wrote Vladimir Umanets 12 A potential piece of yellowism on the canvas.
Umaniec (26) who has lived in Britain for three years and promotes an artistic movement called yellowism, had pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal damage.
There is a "need to deter others from doing as you have done," Judge Roger Chapple told Umaniec, as he sat looking serious and nervous with a translator in the dock at the Inner London Crown Court.
"Your actions were clearly deliberate, planned and intentional. While you may not have immediately decided which bit of art to vandalise, your intention was to cause damage to a work of art." It was not entirely clear why Umaniec, described as "plainly an intelligent man" by the judge, defaced the painting Rothko donated to the museum in the 1960s.
But speaking shortly before his arrest, he said: "...it was an artistic statement, but it was more about having the opportunity to speak about galleries and art."
Ben Smith, a yoga teacher and friend of Umaniec's said: "This is another stage in the yellowist movement. When Vlad took this step no one had heard of yellowism, now everyone from offices to tattoo parlours is talking about it." "Yellowism is a specific intellectual state in which any being or thing is an expression of the colour yellow," the group's co-founder Marcin Lodyga said outside the court.
Estimates suggest the restoration of the painting will cost around £200,000 and take a conservationist up to 20 months.
Sotheby's auction house had estimated the damaged picture's worth at between five and nine million pounds, but earlier this year Russian-born Rothko's Orange, Red, Yellow sold for $87 million in New York - the highest price paid for a piece of post-war art at auction.
The Tate Modern dedicates a room to Rothko's canvases painted for a restaurant in the Seagram Building in New York.