Sunday, September 3, 2023

Vandalism of Art

I have written before about climate change protesters gluing themselves to picture frames or smearing on the glass over famous pictures like the Mona Lisa. There are various reasons for vandalism to art. Recently, it has been ostensibly for a good cause, climate change, but that is not an excuse. No more than going into an appliance store to use a sledgehammer on their gas stoves.

Of course, vandalism against art is nothing new and has existed through the ages. I remember in 1972 Michelangelo’s “Pieta” at St Peter’s Basilica, received several hammer blows from a man claiming to be the resurrected Christ.

I would venture to say that over the years most vandalism is either the perpetrator’s desire to call attention to themselves out of jealous resentment of fame or the desire to associate their name with the art work or to bring attention to causes less noble than climate change.

A short while ago I read about a British tourist who used his key to write on the wall of the Coliseum in Rome, “Ivan + Haley 23”. He clearly did not think what it would look like if all 6 million people who visited every year carved their initials on the walls! Some don’t understand that their pronouncements are less important than a monument that has been around for over 2,000 years.

The National Monument of El Moro, in New Mexico represents a twist of grafitti history. As early as 1605 non-Native travelers added their names and the date to the nearby ancient Indian petroglyphs carved in the sandstone bluff above the waterhole. (The site is now managed by the National Parks Service to prevent the defacing of historic inscriptions or further additions.) This instinctive labelling action might seem to be a literal translation of the French art world saying in French, “Pour Marqué le passage”. In the art trade when you travel and visit a gallery you might buy a little something from the dealer to show that you like them and hold them in high esteem. But that is a positive way of saying you passed through and not a destructive one.

Responding to the uptick of vandalism “The director of Florence’s Uffizi Galleries (Eike Schmidt) called on Wednesday for stiff Penalties against vandals who spray-painted graffiti on exterior columns of the Vasari Corridor connecting the famed museum to the Boboli Gardens” according to an August 23 Associated Press report. The perpetrators were German soccer fans who sprayed Munich related soccer graffiti on the 460-year-old corridor by the Italian Renaissance painter and architect Giorgio Vasari.

We have read about historic statuary taken down or destroyed because it goes against the mores of today. This has been done both legally and illegally, the result being the same. Santa Fe’s new contemporary museum has been built around a protected old building which had an exterior mural by Gilberto Guzman, the Chicano muralist. He completed the work titled “Multi-Cultural” in 1980 with a group of other artists and students from the Institute of American Indian Arts. In spite of community protests and offers of financing for the needed restoration the beloved mural was destroyed because it did not go with the aesthetic of the enveloping contemporary structure… which clashes with the historic buildings of Santa Fe. While the mural was a pleasure to pass by, we now only see the museum’s blank outside wall.

There are always excuses for destruction of one kind or another, but it leaves those who appreciate it or think of it as important all the poorer.

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