Mark Rothko Tate Modern painting damage man jailed

Wlodzimierz Umaniec has been jailed for two years for defacing a Mark Rothko painting at London's Tate Modern gallery.

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A man has been jailed for two years for defacing a Mark Rothko painting at London's Tate Modern gallery.

Wlodzimierz Umaniec, 26, of Worthing, West Sussex, had previously pleaded guilty to criminal damage to property valued at more than £5,000.

Witnesses saw a man daub the mural, Black on Maroon, on 7 October before fleeing the gallery.

Tate Modern has said the damage was much worse than originally feared and could take up to 20 months to repair.

Polish national Umaniec, who co-founded the artistic movement "yellowism", stepped over a barrier in the gallery and daubed his name and the words "12, a potential piece of yellowism" before running off.

Wlodzimierz Umaniec arrives at court on 13 December Wlodzimierz Umaniec is the co-founder of the yellowism art movement

The court heard that he went to the gallery intending to put his "signature" on a picture, but decided to damage the painting only at the time he saw it on display.

Judge Roger Chapple, at Inner London Crown Court, told Umaniec: "Your actions on the 7 October of this year were entirely deliberate, planned and intentional."

Speaking about "yellowism", Judge Chapple said it was "wholly and utterly unacceptable to promote it by damaging a work of art" which he called a "gift to the nation".

He said it was "abundantly clear" that Umaniec was "plainly an intelligent man" and told the court he had described Rothko as a "great painter" in a letter he had written to him.

Explore the collection

Mark Rothko painting
  • American artist Mark Rothko considered one of the outstanding figures of Abstract Expressionism
  • His paintings typically feature rectangular expanses of colour with soft, uneven edges

Source: BBC Your Paintings

The judge also said the incident had led to galleries reviewing security arrangements at a cost to themselves and the taxpayer.

"The effects of such security reviews is to distance the public from the works of art they come to enjoy," he said.

Gregor McKinley, prosecuting, said Sotheby's had given Tate Modern a verbal estimate of pre-damage value of between £5m to just over £9m.

He added work to restore the painting would take about 20 months and cost about £200,000.

Paintings by Russian-born artist Rothko often sell for tens of millions of pounds.

Earlier this year, his Orange, Red, Yellow sold for £53.8m - the highest price paid for a piece of post-War art at auction.

'Everything is art'

Black On Maroon was donated to the Tate in 1969 by Rothko himself.

Speaking the day after the incident, Wlodzimierz Umaniec told the BBC he did not "deface" the painting

Outside court before the sentencing, Ben Smith, who called himself a "yellowist", attempted to explain the concept: "Everything is equal. Everything is art.

"Everything is a potential piece of yellowism."

A spokeswoman for the Tate said: "Tate is pleased that the court has recognised the severity of this incident and its consequences when sentencing Wlodzimierz Umaniec to two years in prison."

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