Vandalism: just a more creative form of art conservation




Last Thursday, a member of Fathers4Justice vandalised an official portrait of the queen. Apparently he did it because he has lost contact with his two children; and what better way to show the world your paternal potential than by getting yourself publicly fined and arrested? Anyway, comment has ensued, and journalists are asking: why the sudden trend to attack paintings? This isn't an isolated event. The vandalism of a Mark Rothko painting in the Tate Modern last October is just one of many recent attacks on art.



A couple of weeks ago, I considered what makes art, and what makes an artist. Of course, this is unanswerable, but the grey area is intriguing. The Chapman Brothers, the artistic duo with a penchant for controversy (you know, as opposed to all the wallflower YBAs - I'm looking at you, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin), bought a bunch of Hitler's shoddy watercolours in 2008. They painted rainbows on them and re-named them 'If Hitler Had Been A Hippy, How Happy Would We Be'. Now, this opens a whole truckload of cans of worms, but lets focus on this: it is generally accepted that these are no longer paintings by Hitler, but paintings by the Chapman Brothers.



In light of what I said about Marcel Duchamp (who took a urinal, turned it upside down, signed it and called it his own artwork), I wonder: can we call vandals of artworks in museums 'artists'? Surely they have just done what Duchamp and the Chapman Brothers did before them. And what about street artists? The likes of Banksy have given more mainstream credibility to street art, but how can we ever know if an artist owns his artwork - and how can we protect established artists from having their works hijacked? Do we want to?

Now here's the real thinker: how many questions can I possibly include in one blog post?


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