Vandalised Rothko painting rehung in London after pioneering restoration

Sun May 25, 2014 9:50am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - (This May 13, 2014 story was refiled to correct the final words in quote in last paragraph and adds how Reuters received a copy of Umanets' video statement)

A Mark Rothko painting vandalized at London's Tate Modern gallery 18 months ago went back on public view on Tuesday after the first-ever effort to strip graffiti ink off a major artwork without damaging the layers of paintwork.

Rothko's "Black on Maroon" was attacked in October 2012 by an aspiring artist who scrawled "Vladimir Umanets '12, A Potential Piece of Yellowism" in a lower corner. One of the Seagram Murals commissioned for the Four Seasons restaurant in 1958, the painting was valued at five million to nine million pounds by Sotheby's. Rothko donated it to the Tate in 1970.

A Polish national called Wlodzimierz Umaniec, also known as Vladimir Umanets, claimed the graffiti was a creative act to promote his artistic movement, Yellowism. He ended up pleading guilty to criminal damage and was jailed for two years in December 2012.

Conservationists at the Tate Modern, one of the world's most popular galleries, said Rothko paintings were notoriously difficult to restore because of their complex paintwork, which is made up of layers of oils, pigments, resins, glues and egg.

A team of three conservationists and scientists spent nine months researching and testing about 80 solvents, six months removing the ink, and three months restoring the surface.

"No one had ever used graffiti ink that is designed to be permanent to damage a painting before and we knew how delicate the paint surface was," Patricia Smithen, head of conservation, told Reuters in front of the re-hung artwork. "We hope the work we did on this painting will contribute to the conservation world in the future."   Continued...

 
Tate staff pose with the restored Mark Rothko artwork "Black on Maroon, 1958" at the Tate Modern in London May 13, 2014.  REUTERS/Luke MacGregor