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October 5, 2014 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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The Year in Art Crime

Art is robust. We’ve spent at least the last century declaring it dead and yet here it is, making a lot of money, alienating the masses, wearing black and scowling. Perhaps, then, it is a matter of strategy. Art can’t be killed by a manifesto, or the undermining of the fetishised object: its death may, just maybe, be brought about by small gestures. This is a feeble conceit, but we go to print in a few hours and as I write this I am lying on my back on a bloodstained leather recliner and a large, hairy man is tattooing the words ‘I HAVE GIVEN UP’ across my forehead. So, without further ado, I present to you a short list of tiny chinks in the very sturdy armour of cultural hegemony, a few triumphant acts of iconoclasm in the service of a revolution no one is really interested in.

  • In February, Máximo Caminero, a Florida artist, destroyed a painted Ai Weiwei vase (valued at $1 million) on display at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Caminero said the vandalism was an act of protest against the museum’s neglect of local artists in favour of blockbuster names. Behind the installation of vases was a set of three photographs depicting Weiwei holding and then dropping a Ming-dynasty vase. Caminero said any symbolism was unintended.

  • Also in February, a cleaner at the Flip Project Space in southern Italy accidentally threw away a Sala Murat piece. Security guards noticed several items were missing from the installation, which was comprised of pieces of newspaper and cookie-cutters, and reported to gallery administration. BBC News quoted the city’s marketing commissioner as saying, “It’s clear the cleaning person did not realise she had thrown away two works and their value. But this is all about the artists who have been able to better interpret the meaning of contemporary art, which is to interact with the environment… In any case, the insurance will cover the damages caused.”

  • On 9 March, criminal charges were filed against El Salvadoran artist Víctor “Crack” Rodríguez for a performance piece in which he is seen eating a ballot paper. No subsequent information about the charges has been published since late March, but if Rodríguez is convicted, he could face up to six years in jail.

  • A 61-year-old man in Kingscliff, Australia led police on a 300 m chase on a toy scooter after spray-painting the words “Dumb Cops” and “Kingy Boyz Rule”, as well as other illegible slogans, on the local police station. The man managed to injure two police officers during the altercation. A police representative was quoted as saying, “It’s not our usual type of graffiti suspect, at that age.”

  • The Louvre’s Tuileries Garden is infested with rats. Administrators blamed the infestation on litter left by picnicking tourists. Poison has been left in the Garden since July to try to combat the rodent problem, but rat sympathisers have been, for months, removing it.

  • In August, Canadian performance artist Istvan Kantor smeared his own blood on the walls of the Whitney Museum where a Jeff Koons retrospective was taking place. The museum was promptly closed for cleaning and Kantor sent to a psychiatric institution for evaluation. Kantor, who is a member of the Neoist movement, has engaged in interventionist performance pieces since the 1970s. In 2004, he threw a vial of his blood at a Paul McCarthy sculpture in Berlin.

  • In September, a nine-foot-tall statue of a bright-red-skinned, particularly well endowed Satan posed in a devil-horn salute was, ahem, erected in a park in Vancouver. The statue, which was visible from the main commuter line of Vancouver’s SkyTrain, was promptly removed as it was “not officially commissioned by the city”. As yet, no one has taken responsibility for the piece.

  • A Utah man charged with vandalising a Banksy was last month ordered to pay a US$13,000 fine or face jail time. The Banksy murals, which were painted illegally on private property in 2010, were encased in Plexiglas by the city to preserve them. The money is intended to cover the cost of restoring the paintings, and to replace the Plexiglas.

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