Picasso’s Woman in a Red Chair vandalised
Wearing a suit, the man standing in front of Pablo Picasso’s Woman in a Red Chair at The Menil Collection, a museum in Houston, Texas, looks like a fairly respectable member of society. In some ways, he appears so unremarkable that he is near enough invisible, someone that you wouldn’t really register in passing.
However, as is revealed in a gripping 24-second video that was recorded on a mobile phone earlier this month, this is no ordinary visitor admiring an exceptional work of art by one of the world’s greatest painters – his presence is deliberate and he has ulterior motives.
The individual in question is caught heading towards Picasso’s 1929 masterpiece, a classic cubist tour de force, pulling out a stencil and spray painting the image of a bull, which is accompanied by the word “Conquista”. The English translation is “conquest”.
No sooner has he finished vandalising the painting, where we hear him rip the stencil away from the canvas, he confidently breezes out of the building, leaving the member of the public who managed to capture the heinous crime so dumbfounded that we can hear him utter an expletive.
Soon after the museum was alerted to the crime, it quickly transferred the painting to its conservation lab, where experts have been using the latest state-of-the art technology and techniques to rescue it.
Jennifer Logan, a chemistry professor with experience in teaching art conservation at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, told the Associated Press that it was likely the team began the restoration process by identifying the chemicals in the spray paint that was used.
This helps assist the experts in coming up with the appropriate solvent to remove it with little residual damage to the actual body of the artwork.
The outlook, surprisingly, looks good, with the museum’s spokeswoman, Gretchen Sammons, commenting that the prognosis so far is “excellent”, adding that the work of art had fortunately been taken to the lab before the graffitied paint had dried.
“It was most likely a tedious process,” professor Logan commented. “If they have the motivation and the skill and ability to carefully remove the spray paint, that’s not surprising to me (that most of the damage has been fixed). I’ve read about much more drastic restoration cases. In the art world, this doesn’t seem as bad.”
Houston’s police force has indentified a local man by the name of Uriel Landeros as the suspect and has offered a $5,000 (approximately £3,207) reward for information leading to the arrest of the 22-year-old.
In his absence, the police have charged him with criminal mischief and felony graffiti, which carries a prison sentence of two to ten years and a $10,000 (£6,415) fine.
KPRC News meanwhile has spoken to the anonymous filmmaker who was able to reveal the potential motivation of Mr Landeros. The witness followed the vandal and asked him why he had attempted to ruin the work.
Shockingly, the suspect retorted that he was a fan of Picasso and that as an artist himself, he wanted to honour the Spanish painter. This was his way of doing it, and, no doubt, rationalising the publicity as a legitimate way to launch his own career.
It is unknown if the museum will ever show the work of art again.