"Woman in a Red Armchair", Pablo Picasso
Following the vandalism of Picasso’s "Woman in a Red Armchair" at a Houston museum, the museum’s staff have been working diligently on the artwork in order to remove the spray paint that the unknown vandal used on the painting.
Luckily, the vandalism was caught on camera by an unknown source, and posted as a 24-second-video on YouTube. The video depicts a man dressed in black holding a stencil to the artwork before spray painting the stencil and walking away. The stencil was that of a bullfighter with the word "conquista", meaning "conquest" in Spanish.
The person filming continues the video after the vandal has left, closely recording the damage, and leaving many to speculate that the filmmaker was also involved in the planned vandalism of the famous artist’s painting.
"People have wondered if this YouTube (video) was shot by a bystander who just happened to be there at that moment or if it's more akin to perpetrators, plural," spokesman for the Menil Collection, Vance Muse said
. "I just don't know. But I hope we find out."
Police have not commented on whether they believe that the vandal and the witness were working together, insisting that they still have to look over the evidence before reaching a decision on the incident.
As investigations continue, the painting continues to be worked on by experts looking to reverse the damage caused by the spray paint.
"Most of the damage, virtually all has been taken care of," Muse said
"But you have to wait and see. Even if the treatment is completed, it would need rest for quite a while. We would not want to bring it out of the conservation lab prematurely."
Chemistry professor Jennifer Logan, who has taught courses on art conservation at Washington & Jefferson College, believes the process will generally involve identifying what chemicals were prevalent in the spray paint in order to determine what solvent would best be used to remove it.
"It was most likely a tedious process," she said
"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."
Some might be surprised to know that this is not the first time a Picasso work has found itself at the mercy of vandalism. An escaped mental patient in Amsterdam cut a hole in the middle of the Picasso painting "Woman Nude Before Garden" in 1999.
Vandalism has also been a frighteningly common occurrence amongst other famous works of art, including Rembrandt’s "Night Watch", which has been attacked twice and sprayed once with sulphuric acid. Even the "Mona Lisa" can’t seem to catch a break, having been attacked several times with various materials including acid, a rock and a teacup.
The question for the Menil museum now, is how they can prevent future incidents like this from occurring. Muse confers that it’s likely they will increase the number of security members and surveillance cameras, but he doesn’t believe that the paintings will ever be placed behind glass or visitor barriers.
"I think a museum-goer always appreciates it when a work of art seems more accessible than that. You don't have all those layers," he said
"And I think the Menil loves the fact the art there is very accessible. It's almost like entering someone's wonderful house."