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Art under attack: masterpieces targeted by vandals


Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” was the latest famous artwork on Friday to be targeted by vandals, when environmental activists at London’s National Gallery doused it in tomato soup to demand an end to fossil fuel production.

Here are some other cases of artworks being attacked:

Custard pie for Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci’s beloved Mona Lisa had a custard pie thrown in her face at the Louvre museum in Paris in May but the artwork’s thick bulletproof case ensured she came to no harm.

Her 36-year-old attacker said he was taking aim at artists who are not focusing enough on “the planet”.

She has been behind glass since a Bolivian man threw a rock at her in December 1956, damaging her left elbow.

In 2009, a woman threw an empty teacup at the painting, which slightly scratched the case.

Banksy murals vandalised

Celebrated British street artist Banksy has had several of his iconic murals vandalised around the world.

In August 2021, a piece featuring a rodent sipping a cocktail in a sun lounger, part of his “Great British Spraycation” series, was smeared in white paint shortly after he left it on a wall in Suffolk.

A year earlier, a Valentine’s Day work showing a young girl firing a slingshot of flowers was defaced after appearing on a building in western England.

Ivan the Terrible ripped

In May 2018 a Russian builder attacked a work by 19-century artist Ilya Repin of the 16th-century tsar known as Ivan the Terrible, ripping it in three places.

The man used part of a security barrier at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery to break the glass covering the painting.

He said the painting, which depicts Russia’s first tsar killing his son, was “a lie”.

He was sent to a penal colony for two and a half years.

Delacroix defaced

In February 2013, a woman defaced Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People”, one of France’s most iconic paintings, with a black marker at a provincial satellite of the Louvre, in the northern French city of Lens.

Her inscription, “AE911”, was a reference to conspiracy theories swirling around the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. She was given an eight-month suspended prison sentence.

Indelible ink on Rothko

In October 2012, a Polish artist scrawled his name and a slogan advertising his own artistic manifesto in indelible ink on US artist Mark Rothko’s 1958 painting “Black On Maroon” in Britain’s Tate Modern gallery.

Conservation experts said it took nine months of microscopic analysis to find a chemical solvent that could dissolve the ink, which had in some areas soaked through to the back of the canvas.

The man was given a two-year jail term for the attack.

Red lipstick on Twombly canvas

In July 2007, a Cambodian artist was arrested after planting a lipstick-infused kiss on a panel of US artist Cy Twombly’s tryptich “Phaedrus”, in a contemporary art museum in the southern French town of Avignon.

She was fined over the kiss mark on the pure white canvas and ordered to pay for the restoration. She defended it as “an act of love”.

Monet bridge fisted

In October 2007, a group of drunken revellers break into the Musee d’Orsay museum in Paris during the night and attack a work by Impressionist master Claude Monet.

One of them sticks a fist in “The Argenteuil bridge” leaving a hole nearly four inches long.

Petrol on van der Helst

In June 2006, a known art vandal sprays Bartholomeus van der Helst’s “Celebration of the Peace of Münster” in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam with lighter fluid and attempts to set fire to it but causes only minor damage.

In 1990 the museum’s best-known painting, Rembrandt’s “Nightwatch” (1642), was sprayed with hydrochloric acid but only the varnish layer was damaged. — AFP

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