Vandal who attacked Rothko painting at Tate as act of 'yellowism' jailed for two years
Wlodzimierz Umaniec, 26, claimed vandalism was itself a piece of artCo-founder of obscure artistic movement of 'yellowism'Judge said actions were 'wholly and utterly
17:08 GMT, 13 December 2012
Jailed: Wlodzimierz Umaniec has been sentenced to two years in prison for vandalising a Rothko painting
The self-proclaimed artist who vandalised a Mark Rothko painting in what he said was an act of 'yellowism' was today sentenced to two years in prison.
Wlodzimierz Umaniec, 26, also known as Vladimir Umanets, defaced the mural, worth around 5million to 9million, at the Tate Modern gallery on October 7.
He has said he carried out the crime in an attempt to spread the principles of the obscure artistic movement which he helped create.
Umaniec, a Polish national living in
Worthing, West Sussex, admitted criminal damage to the value of in
excess of 5,000 – but estimates suggest the restoration of the painting
will cost around 200,000.
vandal stepped over a barrier in the art gallery and daubed his name
and the words 'a potential piece of yellowism' before fleeing.
court heard that he went to the gallery intending to put his
'signature' on a picture, but decided to damage the Rothko painting only
in the moment he saw it on display.
The gallery was then put into 'operation shutdown' with people prevented from leaving or entering the building.
has argued that his actions were themselves a work of art, as the rules
of 'yellowism' dictate that anything can be an example of the genre as
long as it is endorsed by a member of the movement.
judge Roger Chapple said of 'yellowism' that it was 'wholly and utterly
unacceptable to promote it by damaging a work of art' which he called a
'gift to the nation'.
Art Umaniec claimed that his vandalism was in itself a powerful artistic statement
at Inner London Crown Court, he told Umaniec: 'Your actions on the 7th
of October of this year were entirely deliberate, planned and
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.
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.
Dennis Ahern, head of security for the Tate, testified that the gallery was considering exhibiting facsimiles rather than original artworks in the wake of Umaniec's vandalism.
Supporter: Umaniec was accompanied by Ben Smith, who attempted to explain the principles of 'yellowism'
Gregor McKinley, prosecuting, said: 'The work required to restore this picture will be complex and lengthy.
'Complications to this work include the unique painting technique used by the artist and the fact the ink used by Mr Umaniec has permeated the paint layers and the canvas itself.'
Mr McKinley said work to restore the painting will take about 20 months and cost 'something around 200,000'.
Paintings by Russian-born artist Rothko often fetch tens of millions of pounds.
Earlier this year, his Orange, Red, Yellow sold in New York for 53.8million – the highest price paid for a piece of post-War art at auction.
Witness: Dennis Ahern, head of security at the Tate, warned that visitors might face further restrictions on their interaction with valuable artworks as a result of the vandal's actions
The defaced painting, called Black On Maroon, was donated to the Tate in 1969 by Rothko himself.
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.'
After the sentencing, Mr Smith, who had come along to support Umaniec in court, said Umaniec's time in prison would be 'one of the most creative points for him' and will 'give him a greater understanding of humanity'.
Speaking about the incident he said: 'This was not an act of destruction. It was an act of creativity.
'Now yellowism is a global phenomenon.'
A spokeswoman for the gallery 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.'