The brazen vandalism of Rothko’s ‘Black on Maroon’ at the Tate Modern yesterday might have shocked the capital, but this certainly isn’t the first time a Londoner has vented their frustrations on a piece of art. The tate is just the latest in a long list of galleries where paintings have been defaced or destroyed. We’ve picked our top seven art attacks:
1. 1914 – Suffragette Mary Robinson slashes Diego Valaquez’s ‘Rokeby Venus’
Furious about the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst, angry suffragette Mary Robinson walked into the National Gallery and attacked Valaquez’s picture of a naked Venus looking into the mirror with a meat cleaver. Robinson said she wanted to ‘destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the government for destroying Mrs Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history.’ Girl power, indeed.
2. 2008 – Banksy painted over by council
Some people are just no fun at all. Declaring Banksy’s ‘One Nation Under CCTV’ graffiti, regardless of who had painted it, Westminster City Council painted over the three story creation. Sad times.
3. 1987 – Leonardo da Vinci shot in National Gallery
And sadly, we aren’t talking about being shot for a photograph. Robert Cambridge snuck a sawn off shotgun into the National Gallery and shot Leonardo’s ‘The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist’. Cambridge was later arrested and declared mentally ill. Thankfully, the picture has since been restored.
4. 1854 -Drunk man smashes Roman vase in the British Museum
It’s everybody’s nightmare; going to a fancy house, having too much to drink and accidentally smashing their expensive crockery. Not to mention drinking in a museum and smashing up the artworks. In 1845, William Lloyd, after a week-long bender, threw a nearby sculpture onto the precious Portland Vase, smashing it and its case. Amazingly, his lawyer managed to get him off on a loophole that only saw him convicted for smashing the glass case.
5. 2002- Margaret Thatcher decapitated
Before you all get over-excited, this isn’t a true story. A marble statue of the Iron Lady unveiled in the Guildhall Art Gallery was clearly made of the wrong material, as Paul Kelleher decapitated it. He first attacked it with a cricket bat which he’d concealed in his trousers, and when this proved unsuccessful he somehow produced a metal rope support stanchion and chopped her head off, saying upon arrest ‘I think it looks better like that.’
6. 2000 – Damien Hirst’s black sheep
While jokes about the black sheep of the modern art scene regarding bad boy Damien Hirst are ten a penny, back at the start of the millennium an artist took this literally, pouring black ink into one of Hirst’s famous dead-animals-preserved-in-formaldhyde, a sheep in a tank. The unnamed artist claimed he thought this would actually benefit Hirst’s work.
7. 1999 – Getting into bed with Tracey Emin
No doubt Tracey Emin’s most famous work is her unmade bed, which saw her nominated for the Turner Prize. We know that walking around a gallery can get a little tiring, but Yuan Chai and Jian Jun Xi took this a little too far, climbing into the bed in their underwear. They were, however, staging their own performance ‘Two Naked Men Climb into Tracey’s Bed’. Having done no damage, it could be said that Emin agreed with the idea of creating art from art, as no charges were pressed. Victoria Gray
Correction: this article formerly said that Tracey Emin won the Turner Prize with her unmade bed. In fact, Steve McQueen did.