Man charged with defacing Rothko painting in London

Tue Oct 9, 2012 2:34pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - A Polish man has been charged with criminal damage after a painting by Russian-American artist Mark Rothko was defaced in London's Tate Modern museum, police said on Tuesday.

Wlodzimierz Umaniec, 26, who is also known as Vladimir Umanets, is accused of damaging Rothko's 1958 canvas "Black on Maroon" on Sunday.

The words "Vladimir Umanets, a potential piece of yellowism" were daubed in black onto the bottom-right corner of the painting.

Witnesses said a man calmly approached the Rothko painting in the Tate before marking it. The museum said it would be repaired by an in-house team of experts.

Rothko, a key figure in 20th century abstract painting whose works sell at auction for tens of millions of dollars, was commissioned to paint the Seagram Murals in the 1950s for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York.

Several of them ended up in the Tate collection after being given as gifts, and Tate describes the series of soft-edged, coloured rectangles as "iconic".

In May, Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow" sold for $86.9 million, a new auction record for the artist, at Christie's in New York.

Police said Umaniec was due to appear at London's Camberwell Green Magistrates' Court on Wednesday charged with one count of criminal damage in excess of 5,000 pounds.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Jon Hemming)