Founder of ‘Yellowism’ movement admits defacing Mark Rothko painting at the Tate Modern

8 October 2012

Vladimir Umanets, founder of the Yellowism movement, has claimed responsibility for defacing a valuable Seagram mural by Mark Rothko at the Tate Modern. He said his aim was not to destroy or deface it.

The painting, Black on Maroon, one of Rothko's Seagram murals, was written on with black paint on Sunday. According to eyewitness Tim Wright Mr Umanets calmly walked up, took out a marker pen, tagged it and made a quick exit.

Russian-born Mark Rothko (1903 – 1970) emigrated to the US at the age of 10 and became an important post-war abstract expressionist. He was commissioned to paint the Seagram murals in 1958 for Manhattan's Four Seasons restaurant, but they were never installed. Shortly before his death in 1970, he presented some of the murals to the Tate Gallery.

Vladimir Umanets, the Russian-born founder of the Yellowism movement admitted writing the words ‘Vladimir Umanets, A Potential Piece of Yellowism’ in black ink or paint on the bottom of one of Rothko’s Seagram paintings. Mr Umanets, who studied art, describes Yellowism as "neither art, nor anti-art"."Yellowism is not art, and Yellowism isn't anti-art. It's an element of contemporary visual culture. It's not an artistic movement. The main difference between Yellowism and art is that in art you have got freedom of interpretation, in Yellowism you don't have freedom of interpretation, everything is about Yellowism, that's it.

"It's good people are shocking about what happened, no-one is realising what actually happened, everyone is just posting that the piece has been damaged or destroyed or defaced. But I believe that after a few years they will start looking for it from the right angle. So that's why I did it."He said he did not plan exactly which painting he would write on, but thinks he found "the perfect choice", and said he feels he may have increased the value.

The Tate Modern said it does not have a price for the defaced piece, but paintings by the Russian-born artist often fetch tens of millions of pounds.Earlier this year, Rothko's Orange, Red, Yellow was sold for £53.8 million - the highest price ever paid for a piece of post-war art at auction.

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