Video has surfaced (and circulated) of a vandal spray painting a stenciled image on the face of a Picasso painting in Houston’s Menil Collection. Investigators say an unknown person left tape and spray painted a gold bull figure with the word “conquista” on the museum’s 1929 Picasso titled “Woman in Red Armchair.” The Menil Collection’s founders purchased the Picasso back in 1956, and it’s been available for public view since 1987.
The video above reminded us of the footage of Banksy’s unsolicited installations in New York City’s museums which landed him on the cover of the New York Times Arts & Leisure section. There is, however, a rich history of vandalizing Picasso paintings in museums. In 2010 the graffiti writer Katsu released a video supposedly filmed at MoMA vandalizing one of Picasso’s most iconic masterpieces, “Girl Before a Mirror.” Don’t be alarmed, it was just CGI. But perhaps the most famous individual to deface a Picasso is the famed gallerist Tony Shafrazi, who in 1974 spray painted the words “KILL LIES ALL” across Picasso’s “Guernica” as it hung on loan to the Museum of Modern Art.
In regard to his 1974 vandalism of the painting, Tony Shafrazi gave the following statement to Art in America in December 1980: “I wanted to bring the art absolutely up to date, to retrieve it from art history and give it life. Maybe that’s why the Guernica action remains so difficult to deal with. I tried to trespass beyond that invisible barrier that no one is allowed to cross; I wanted to dwell within the act of the painting’s creation, get involved with the making of the work, put my hand within it and by that act encourage the individual viewer to challenge it, deal with it and thus see it in its dynamic raw state as it was being made, not as a piece of history.”