One day after patrons of the Tate Modern gallery on the River Thames watched an Eastern European man walk up to the Mark Rothko classic Black On Maroon and write on it in black ink, the alleged defacer decided to try and clarify his motives. Answering to the name Vladimir Umanets, he’s apparently aware he’ll be arrested by British police in the near future but is okay with it since he was trying to make “an artistic statement” about galleries and art.
During his interview with Reuters, Umanets, who tagged the famous work with the phrase “Vladimir Umanets ’12, A Potential Piece Of Yellowism”, said he thinks Marcel Duchamp would have approved of his behavior.
”Marcel Duchamp, when he made 'readymades', everyone was shocked. I don't want to be considered a vandal or someone who wants to destroy something, especially such a valuable painting. It's more about to change perception of things, of spectators. It's more about an idea."
It’s not surprising someone who defaces a famous piece of artwork would have elaborate reasons for doing so, but these thoughts on where the art world should go don’t change the fact that no single person has the right to alter an irreplaceable piece of art based on his own motivations. If Umanets wanted to make a comment about Rothko, he should have written the tag on a print and included it in his next art exhibit.
Luckily, experts think they’ll be able to remove the black ink in its entirety and restore the painting to its original glory. Tests will need to be done in order to determine what materials need to be used and how long they might take. Expect some public comment to be made in the near future.
Until then, you can read Umanets’ confusing manifesto here.