Vlad the Scrawler claims he's increased Rothko's value

Oct 8, 2012

Man who defaced Rothko is former art student and co-founder of obscure ‘yellowism' movement


VLADIMIR UMANETS, a Russian "art activist" who defaced a Mark Rothko painting at Tate Modern on Sunday, has won few friends in London by claiming that what he did was "an act of art" and that he has actually improved the value of the 1958 canvas, Black on Maroon, by scrawling across it with a marker pen.

"I am a naturally peaceful person, but I wouldn't be that upset if 'Vladimir' accidentally met with a baseball bat," said one Twitter user quoted by The Guardian. Others, responding to The Times coverage, said it was an act of vandalism that merited a spell in jail.

Umanets, a Russian living in London, claims to be a former art student and graphic designer. He says he went to Tate Modern armed with a black permanent marker intending to spread the message of "yellowism", a supposed art movement he co-founded with another man, Marcin Lodyga.

Umanets originally aimed to daub on Picasso's Seated Nude but changed his mind as he wandered around the gallery. He considered several Jackson Pollocks before settling on the Rothko as "the perfect choice".

In the full view of other gallery visitors, but while no guards were around, he scrawled across the bottom right-hand corner: "Vladimir Umanets, a potential piece of yellowism."

Umanets told The Times: "Everyone knows Mark Rothko is a f***ing genius, he expresses his emotions so well. So I decided that's the thing I want to put in the context of yellowism".

Quite what yellowism is or means is open for debate. An online manifesto posted by Umanets and Lodyga states: "Yellowism is not art or anti-art. Examples of yellowism can look like works of art but are not works of art."

Talking to The Guardian, Umanets compared himself to Marcel Duchamp the French artist who in 1917 famously signed a urinal and submitted it to the Society of Independent Artists show, calling the work Fountain.

"I didn't destroy the picture," said Umanets. "I did not steal anything. There was a lot of stuff like this before. Marcel Duchamp signed things that were not made by him, or even Damien Hirst."

Umanets told the Times: "I don't want to be treated as a vandal or a destroyer. I'm not a crazy man. My intentions were absolutely not to destroy the piece.

"It was more about to explain the difference between yellowism and art. Yellowism is a thing which just can look like art but it's not art. It's completely different. With my signature this work will be much more valuable [as] a work of art and also financially, because I changed the meaning."

Marcel Duchamp eventually turned his back on art and devoted his life to chess. Friends of Tate Modern will be hoping Umanets follows suit.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Disqus - noscript

Those who can, paint. Those who can't, deface. Who cares what Vladimir Umanets thinks is art? True artists are too busy creating and don't have time for or interest in destroying the works of others. Get you ego in check Vladimir. You've had your 15 seconds of fame now do something useful with your life like cleaning toilets.

Typical Emporer's new clothes stuff.