Sunday 15 January 2012

Woman’s buttocks make an impression on a Clyfford Still Painting

Potential peeing target:
Clifford Still 1957-J no.2 
On 29 December 2011, the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver was the scene of a rather dramatic display of vandalism (or performance art, depending on your perspective).

A woman, who had apparently enjoyed the alcoholic fruits of the holiday season a bit too much, reportedly pulled her trousers down, leaned her buttocks against against and subsequently slid down an iconic Clyfford Still painting worth more than $30 million. Although the impression of her buttocks caused the most damage, she also punched and scratched the painting and urinated on herself (fortunately the urine does not appear to have damaged the painting). The total cost of the damage to the oil-on-canvas called 1957-J no.2, is an estimated US$10,0000. The woman in question, Carmen Lucette Tisch, was charged with felony criminal mischief.

Clyfford Still was one of the first abstract expressionists who lead the movement after the Second World War. The Clyfford Still Museum opened on 18 November 2011. It constitutes a collection of approximately 2,400 works in a variety of media which were previously sealed off from public and scholarly access following Still’s death in 1980.

Quite apart from the criminal aspect, there is an argument that rubbing your buttocks against, scratching and punching a painting is an example of derogatory treatment and provides a potential moral rights action. Following Confetti v Warner (2003) this would depend on whether there was distortion and mutilation of the painting and “the distortion or mutilation prejudices the author’s honour reputation” (para 150). There is arguably prejudice to Clyfford Still’s reputation by the public nature of the damage (and the subsequent publicity).

Comments from readers, particularly regarding the US position on moral rights would be much appreciated.

Source: The Guardian

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