Man rips £20m work by Pablo Picasso at Tate Modern

Man rips £20m work by Pablo Picasso at Tate Modern
Tate Modern. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
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Just days ago, a man attacked Bust of a Woman, a 1944 painting by Pablo Picasso. Following the events, the painting was taken to the museum’s conservation team to access the damage while the museum stayed operational. The man allegedly responsible was taken into custody by police and has now been charged with criminal damages.

Bust of a Woman 1944 Pablo Picasso 1881-1973 Lent from a private collection 2011

While the museum was open to the public, during the lazy week between Christmas and New Year Eve, a man reportedly ripped the Picasso valued at around £20 million. Shakeel Massey, a 20-year-old north London man, was taken into custody in relation to the vandalism and appeared at a Camberwell Green Magistrates Court yesterday. It is reported that he will deny the charges but he has not been granted bail and will remain in custody until January 30th, when he will have a pre-trial hearing at Inner London crown court. Following yesterday’s proceedings, the Metropolitan Police announced: ‘Detectives investigating an incident of criminal damage at the Tate Modern, Bankside, on Saturday 28 December have charged a man.’

While Tate has not stated much in reference to the events, shortly after the incident on Saturday, a spokesperson stated that the person responsible for the acts had been ‘swiftly apprehended’ and that ‘[t]he work of art is with our conservation team for expert assessment. Tate Modern remains open.’

The oil painting, which has been on a long-term loan to the museum since 2011, is semi-abstracted rendering of Dora Maar, a photographer who was also one of Picasso’s lovers. Maar, wearing a green dress, sits in a chair against a background of horizontal and vertical stripes of bright red and purple. The configuration of the painting, according to Tate, was common amongst Picasso’s painting at the time and Maar was not an unusual sitter for him. He created it at Rue des Grands-Augustins studio where both he and Maar worked from time to time. However, when compared with works done in the months and years, prior, this 1944 work is brighter in palette. This might have been due to the waning of World War II, when Picasso, and others, were perhaps able to look past the turmoil they had come to know and endure while living in Nazi occupied France.

This is not the first incident of vandalism at Tate, either. In 2012, Wlodzimierz Umaniec, also known as Vladimir Umanets, defaced a painting by Mark Rothko. Later, Umaniec plead guilty to having written ‘A Potential Piece of Yellowism’ and his name in black paint on the painting, titled Black on Maroon (1958), Umaniec was then sentenced to two years in prison. After serving a year and half of his sentence, Umaniec offered his apology for the act stating that he regretted his actions. The painting was restored but at a significant cost.

Edited August 28, 2020: Shakeel Massey’s name, previously misspelled as Shakeel Massy, was corrected.