British police arrested a man on Monday (Oct. 8) who claimed responsibility for defacing a mural by American painter Mark Rothko at London’s Tate Modern museum Sunday.
The Washington Post reports that Vladimir Umanets, a homeless Russian artist who identifies himself as the co-founder an artistic movement called “Yellowism,” told reporters that he was the culprit who scrawled what appears to be the words “Vladimir” and “a potential piece of yellowism” on the piece, which is part of Rothko’s Seagram series.
Prior to his arrest, Umanets told Britain’s Press Association that he wanted to bring attention to his movement, which he says is “an element of contemporary visual culture.”
“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,” he says.
Umanets also said he expected to be arrested but believes he increased the value of the painting. While the Tate Modern doesn’t have a price for the vandalized Rothko, another of the artist’s pieces, “Orange, Red, Yellow,” sold for almost $87 million at auction.
“I believe what I am doing and I want people to start talking about this. It was like a platform,” Umanets says. “I didn’t decrease the value, I didn’t destroy this picture, I put something new.”
The graffiti incident was witnessed by Tim Wright, a visitor to the museum, who tweeted the photo above of the painting.
Wright writes, “this guy calmly walked up, took out a marker pen and tagged it. Surreal.”
The police statement didn’t name the man they arrested, but when asked about Umanets, a police spokesman says that a 26-year-old man had been arrested in the coastal town of Worthing.