Nicking – Banksy’s Poundland piece, 2013
Mere weeks ago, a chunk of wall was cut from the side of a Poundland in Wood Green, only to reappear days later for auction in Miami. This hugely valuable bit of Haringey architecture was adorned with Banksy’s ‘Slave Labour (Bunting Boy)’. The police, Haringey Council and Poundland are all baffled as to how it was pinched, but it was subsequently removed from sale in the States.
Smashing – Portland Vase, 1845
After getting completely smashed on the old booze, William Lloyd, a poor student from Trinity College, Dublin, decided it was something else’s turn. Unfortunately, he was in the British Museum at the time and the casualty was the Portland Vase, a glass amphora from AD 25. The vase remained only partially repaired until the 1980s when a box of lost fragments was rediscovered and a full restoration took place.
Slashing – ‘The Rokeby Venus’, 1914
The arrest of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was bound to spark some act of retribution, and it was Diego Velázquez’s ‘Rokeby Venus’ (1647-51) at the National Gallery that got it in the neck. The Spanish master’s only surviving nude portrait was viciously and repeatedly hacked with a meat cleaver by Mary ‘Slasher’ Richardson, leaving the canvas around Venus’s back in tatters. Point made: but no way to treat a goddess.
Burning – Saatchi’s stash, 2004
Just after midnight on May 24 2004, a fire began in an East End industrial complex next door to the building where art handlers Momart stored Charles Saatchi’s collection of Young British Art. The flames consumed Tracey Emin’s tent, ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept with 1963-1995’ (1995), and the Chapman Brothers’ complex diorama ‘Hell’ (2000), as well as works by Rachel Whiteread and Sarah Lucas. But all was not lost: celebrity spoon bender Uri Geller later dropped by with a shovel and some bin liners to collect ashes for his memorial artwork, ‘RIP YBA’.
Fighting – Tracey Emin’s bed, 1999 (above)
Visitors to Tate Britain copped an eyeful of Emin’s famously chaotic sleeping arrangements (‘My Bed’, 1998), but only a lucky few got to see the pillow fight on it betwen two rowdy chinese performance artists. Security were booed as they escorted Yuan Chai and Jun Xi off the premises, but no charges were filed and the exhibition was reopened the next morning. The duo went on to unsuccessfully attempt to wee in Duchamp’s urinal (‘Fountain’, 1917).
Sloganeering – ‘Black on Maroon’, 2012
Vladimir Umanets casually walked up to Mark Rothko’s ‘Black on Maroon’ (1958) in Tate Modern and scribbled ‘a potential piece of yellowism’ on the bottom corner with a permanent marker. The ‘yellowism’ movement (presumably so called because it’s like territorial urination) consisted of Umanets and fellow ‘yellowist’ Marcin Lodyga signing their names on famous works of art and claiming them as their own. The damage to the canvas was serious and will take at least 20 months to repair at a cost of roughly £200,000. The damage to Umanets was two years in prison.
Egging – Myra Hindley, 1997
Marcus Harvey’s huge portrait of Moors murderer Myra Hindley (painted with casts of children’s handprints) was attacked twice in the same day while hanging in the ‘Sensation’ exhibition at the Royal Academy. The canvas was splashed with red and blue ink by Peter Fisher, and, moments later, Jacques Role chucked eggs at it. It took two weeks to repair, then Hindley was back, staring coldly from the gallery wall.
Melting, ‘Two Forms’, 1970
Metal thieves have been nicking everything from manhole covers to lead roofing for years, and the theft of Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Two Forms (Divided Circle)’ (1970) from Dulwich
Park in 2011 likely earned the crooks a sum of around £750 once it was melted down. In its original state it was worth in excess of £500,000 and beloved by locals. Works by Henry Moore and Lynn Chadwick have also fallen victim to smelters.
Punking – Winston Churchill’s mohawk, 2000
Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square was adorned with a grass mohawk by guerrilla gardeners during the May Day protests, making him look like a chubby elderly punk, an image subsequently reproduced in stencil by Banksy. The same sculpture was doused in red paint in 2007. Still, Churchill was keen on painting and gardening…
Over-tidying – Damien Hirst’s ashtrays, 2011
Cleaner Emmanuel Asare heaved a mighty sigh as he began his shift at the Eyestorm Gallery in Mayfair. ‘I sighed because there was so much mess,’ he told The Sun. ‘It didn’t look much like art to me. So I cleared it all into bin bags and dumped it.’ But the ashtrays, bottles and paper actually formed a Hirst installation, which had to be fished out of the bin and rebuilt. Modern rubbish really is art. Eddy Frankel