September 7, 2005
This past Saturday found a far less contentious exhibit playing host to an incident of its own, as an unnamed German woman took a knife to Roy Lichtenstein's Nudes in Mirror, on display at the Kunsthaus Bregenz in Vienna. (Hat tip, DC Art News.)
VIENNA, Austria—A visitor to an art museum in western Austria pulled a pocket knife from her purse and repeatedly slashed a painting by U.S. artist Roy Lichtenstein worth millions of dollars, a police spokesman said Sunday.
The woman, a 35-year-old German from Munich, was visiting the Kunsthaus Bregenz exhibition "Roy Lichtenstein _ Classic of the New" Saturday afternoon when she vandalized the painting "Nude in Mirror." She made four cuts in the painting, each measuring about 30 centimeters, police spokesman Thomas Prodinger said.
The painting, owned by The Rush Family Collection in New York, had been insured for US$6 million, he said.
A museum visitor and an employee held the woman until police arrived. She scratched a police officer in the face and bit another in the leg during questioning, Prodinger said.
"She bit him hard, like a dog, causing a flesh wound" he said in a telephone interview.
The officer with the bite wound had received medical care, he added.
The woman had been examined by a court psychiatrist, but no details from that examination would be made public at this stage, Prodinger said.
The woman did not speak much with officers and had not offered any explanation for her behavior beyond indicating that she thought the painting she had attacked was a fake. She faces charges of causing grave property damage, a crime that carries a punishment of up to five years in prison. She could later face additional charges because of the attack on the officers, Prodinger said.
Her purse contained a can of red spray paint and a screwdriver, Prodinger said.
Sunday was the last day of the special exhibition, which opened in mid-June. It features 41 works created from 1961 to 1995 by the late pop artist and had been organized in cooperation with The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, The Estate of Roy Lichtenstein and the New York galleries Gagosian and Sonnabend, according to the museum's Web site.
No one answered museum phones on Sunday, and phone and e-mail messages requesting comment were not immediately returned.
Bregenz, the capital of Austria's westernmost province, Vorarlberg, is located about 700 kilometers west of Vienna.
This is hardly the first time a painting of a nude has been the object of iconoclastic fury and, in such affairs, it's usually not such a tough hop, skip and jump to likely motive. But we find an odd wrinkle in this case in the attacker's stated claim (or, if you prefer, excuse) that she attacked the painting because it's a forgery. (Which rationale led, by the way, to my favorite headline from the incident: "Sceptical gallery-goer slashes Lichtenstein painting." So the woman's a connoisseur! ...If a tad critical at that.)
What an apparently benign motive behind such a violent and obviously premeditated act.
Was this really unrelated to the painting's sexual content? (It may not necessarily be the artist's most patently erotic work, but to a more delicate or traditional sensibility...)
Was this woman simply bothered by the commodity fetishism that she might feel has irrationally attached to an inauthentic artifact?
Or is she just deranged?
"Those Kooky Teutons"
Posted by Dan at 12:48 AM
ABC Online: Sceptical gallery-goer slashes Lichtenstein painting
Absolutearts.com: 'Roy Lichtenstein: Classic of the New'—Kunsthaus Bregenz
Artnet: Coskun Fine Art: Roy Lichtenstein—Two Nudes, State I
DC Art News: Lichtenstein Painting Slashed in Austria
Iconoduel: Iconoclast Tumbler Strikes in Berlin
Iconoduel: Never Mind the Why and Wherefore
Mainichi Daily News: Valuable Roy Lichtenstein painting vandalized at museum in western Austria (AP)