Art under attack show to feature damaged Christ statue
Over the centuries art works have been smashed, slashed, defaced, even bombed.Now the Tate has unveiled plans for the first exhibition to explore physical attacks on art in Britain from the 16th century to the present day.
Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm opens at Tate Britain on 2 October.
The centrepiece of the show is a damaged sculpture of Christ that lay hidden for hundreds of years beneath a floor of a London chapel.
The Statue of the Dead Christ (c. 1500-1520) is missing its crown of thorns, arms and lower legs - thought to be the result of a brutal attack by religious reformers in the 16th century.
Penelope Curtis Director, Tate BritainIt's a hard exhibition to make because very often we are dealing with fragments”
The statue was discovered beneath the chapel floor of the Mercers' Hall in central London in 1954. Experts think it may have been buried to protect it from further damage.Tate curator Tabitha Barber said she was "delighted" that the the Mercers' Company had loaned the sculpture to the exhibition.
"Confronted by the statue today, its emotional impact is still such that the danger of such images feared by 16th century reformers - the confusion between the real and the represented, or the sinful worship of an image instead of God - is near enough to be imagined.
"This incredible loan will help us to explore the methods and motives behind attacks on art in Britain over 500 years."
'Too topical' At Friday's launch at Mercer's Hall, Tate Britain director Penelope Curtis admitted that the exhibition was almost "too topical" given a recent spate of attacks on art in the UK.
Last October, a Mark Rothko mural was defaced with a marker pen at the Tate Modern gallery. A week ago, Constable's The Hay Wain was targeted by a protester in the National Gallery.
Ms Curtis said she had conceived the idea for a show about art attacks before she joined the Tate three years ago.
"It's a hard exhibition to make because very often we are dealing with fragments, and things which were hidden," she said.
The show explores why art has been attacked for religious, political or aesthetic motives.
Exhibits include fragments of a statue of William III and Nelson's Pillar destroyed in Dublin during anti-British attacks in 1928 and 1966 respectively.
A portrait of Oliver Cromwell hung upside down by the staunch monarchist Prince Frederick Duleep Singh (1868-1926) will also feature.
Attacks by suffragettes are represented by two paintings, Edward Burne-Jones's Sibylla Delphica, attacked in Manchester Art Gallery in 1913, and John Singer Sargent's Henry James, slashed at the Royal Academy in 1914.
The curators stress that the exhibition is not about acts of random vandalism but "iconoclasm" - acts of destruction inspired by an ideology.
The show will also consider how artists themselves have used destruction as a creative force. A piano destroyed by an axe by Ralph Montanez Ortiz in 1966 will go on display for the first time accompanied by an audio recording of the event.
Asked about the security arrangements for exhibition, Ms Curtis told the BBC that the said that security levels at Tate Britain changed "week by week depending on circumstances".
Recent attacks on art works, she said, had been an "unhappy coincidence" while the exhibition was being put together.
"We all regret what's been happening recently because it's made it too topical almost," she added.
Constable's The Hay Wain attacked at the National Gallery
A protester has been arrested after gluing a photograph to a John Constable masterpiece in the National Gallery.The man, thought to be linked to Fathers4Justice, stuck a photograph of a young boy to the 1821 painting The Hay Wain at the gallery in Trafalgar Square.
He was arrested in the gallery and is now in custody, Scotland Yard said.
The attack did no lasting damage to the work of art, a gallery spokeswoman said. The painting is back on display.
She added: "Conservation staff were on the scene very rapidly and the painting was removed for treatment.
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National Gallery spokesmanNo damage to Constable's original paint occurred and there is no lasting damage to the painting”
"No damage to Constable's original paint occurred and there is no lasting damage to the painting."'Deliberately misleading' The spokeswoman praised "the prompt action and quick thinking" of staff who intervened before any more lasting damage could be done.
Constable's world-famous oil painting shows an idyllic rural scene with a cart in the River Stour in Suffolk.
It comes as Fathers4Justice said it was abandoning its five-year "attempted engagement with the political establishment".
The protest group said on Friday it was refusing to engage with the government, police, courts, the judiciary or any other organisations involved in family law.
It also says it is refusing to deal with the national media because of its "deliberately inaccurate and misleading reporting of the campaign".
The National Gallery incident coincided with a Fathers4Justice campaigner appearing in court accused of vandalising a portrait of the Queen in Westminster Abbey.
Tim Haries, 41, from Doncaster in South Yorkshire, appeared at Southwark Crown Court in London charged with criminal damage to the Ralph Heimans canvas, which was daubed with spray paint on 13 June.
Rothko damage 'could take up to 18 months to repair'
Damage done to a Mark Rothko painting when it was defaced at the Tate Modern gallery in October is much worse than originally feared, the BBC has learned.It is understood that the Rothko mural, Black on Maroon, could take up to 18 months to repair.
A Polish man, Wlodzimierz Umaniec, pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage last month.
Speaking on Radio 4's Today, BBC arts editor Will Gompertz said the scribbled graffiti had caused significant damage.
"There was a hope among some people that the graffiti [Umaniec] had scrawled on the corner of this painting would wipe away like a stain on a work suface," he said.
"But the ink from the pen has bled all the way through the canvas causing a deep wound, not a superficial graze.
"Because of the way in which Rothko worked, which was building his paintings layer after layer after layer in a meticulous fashion, the conservators are going to have to remove the paint layer after layer and then rebuild it.
Restorers will have to source and apply the same range of materials employed by the artist, which could include glue, synthetic resin and egg, in an attempt to match their work with the original.
They will also have to deal with the problem that Rothko's paint is more than 50 years old and has naturally aged and changed.
A Tate spokesperson said the London gallery had always said the painting would need an extended period of conservation.
'Different solubilities' Julia Nagle, a London-based independent paintings conservator, explained that repairing a painting such as Rothko's would be a lengthy process.
"Rothko is difficult in the sense that he painted using lots of different media, which narrows down the choice of solvents that can be safely used on his paintings," she told the BBC.
"Graffiti pens are made to work outdoors and survive rain and all kinds of things, so it's something that's quite noxious that has then gone right through the paint into the canvas below."
Nagle said conservators would need to experiment on reconstructions of the original painting's damaged area.
"I've worked on an old painting from 1540 that took about six years to clean," she added. "I've also taken a year in my studio to do certain things because an awful lot of it is testing time.
"If you don't have that, you could damage something."
Umaniec, who is also known as Vladimir Umanets, pleaded guilty to criminal damage to property valued at over £5,000 at Camberwell Green Magistrates' Court on 16 October.
The Polish national, from Worthing, West Sussex, was released on conditional bail and has yet to be sentenced.