Art vandalism

Poussin’s Adoration of the Golden Calf in the National Gallery, London has been vandalized.  An extraordinary image of the painting and vandal appear in this article from the UK’s Guardian (7/16/11).

5 thoughts on “Art vandalism

  1. mhowell2

    One of the things that I learned in Art Class is that vandalism is not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, I understand the fact that an old painting that was held in such high value is no longer visible in its original respect however, that doesn’t mean that what was added doesn’t make the painting any less interesting or more artistic. Vandalism is held, in its own way as art. If you are to look at this Adoration of the Golden Calf as now being destroyed then you are wrong in a way. For example, the artist Bansky, is a contemporary street artist who goes around and is known for “defacing” a building with spray paint. His artwork in its own way can be crude but it is expressive. The result of this painting being, “vandalized” can just be looked in a different form. One could argue that the painting, which looks like before, held a quality of naturalism, is now supportive of a surrealist sort of painting, perhaps even abstract that makes it eye-catching.

  2. maoch Post author

    Thanks for commenting here. You raise issues that we could write LOTS about. Here are a few ideas and links for further looking.

    Many works of art are described as “belonging to humanity” because they so powerfully speak to what it means to be human…regardless of the originating culture or period. What right does any one person have to determine that it would be better with a surrealist/abstract overlay? I defend this individual’s right to express himself, but not at the expense of the artwork’s right to exist as the artist created it. I recognize works of art as having rights. This is an important topic.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but I find it frightening that the alteration (destruction) of works in museums, religious structures, or private collections is being discussed as “not necessarily a bad thing” in a department of art. It would be interesting to hear more about this. Would you say this about a piece of property you owned? Your car? Your home? And what about a work of art that is being performed…such as dance or music…should it be interrupted, i.e. vandalized, by viewers/audience members who shout out, etc., thus making it impossible to experience the work as the artist(s) would like us to?

    Take a look at the Bamiyan Buddhas. This is an extreme case of art/culture vandalism.

    Another point for consideration is the “Degenerate Art” exhibit of March 1937 put on in Munich and other German and Austrian cities by the Nazis. The works exhibited were considered unworthy to exist…dangerous…degenerate. Read the tabs at the PMA site and see how some of these “degenerate” works entered American collections while many were deliberately burned. The Nazis thought that burning these works would make them better.

  3. Kelly Fisne

    I believe that there is a basic line that has been crossed in this instance. Banksy creates art, not at the expense of others, but to be admired by the masses. There is a difference between defacing historic property without meaning, and making a statement of beauty, or importance.

    Of course there are certain boundaries. For example, the work “Piss Christ” displeased a significant amount of people for the ignorance of the religious value of the cross. Though personally I am not religious, this neglect creates more harm than good. Purposeful or not, “Piss Christ” is an inconsiderate defecation of a god amongst many, just as this graffiti is unnecessary and meaningless.

  4. Shilpa Sadarangani

    Obviously, I think the unknown man’s actions were wrong and that he should not have vandalized Poussin’s painting. However, I’m more curious to know his motivation for doing so. Judging by the description of his demeanor before and after the vandalism, as described in the article, he seemed to have some sort of reason for doing so. Since he didn’t try to run or protest being arrested, he was probably content with his actions and thought they were justified. This makes me very curious about why he spray painted over Poussin’s painting. Also, I think the National Gallery should take more cautionary security measures. It surprises me that it was that easy for a man to walk through the front doors with spray paint cans and that it was even easier for him to deface a painting to such an extent before being caught by security.

  5. Saydi Juliar

    I understand both points of views, but I think that the man has crossed the line with his artwork. It’s one thing to be an artist into vandalism of buildings and structures such as that which are easily painted over. They provide a place that is big enough to express your ideas while also being a place that isn’t too significant unless altered. For instance, I’m from Los Angeles, if you were to vandalize a building there it’s an expression, it makes the city, but if you were to go to a museum and vandalize and important part of history including the museum itself then you are defacing culture and society. There are exceptions to the rules of course, but vandalism, if done, should be done right and under certain criteria.


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