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Gauguin painting's attacker isn't the only crazy one

April 5, 2011 | 11:35 am

Gauguin Two Tahitian Women NGA AP The woman who attacked a Paul Gauguin painting with her fists at Washington's National Gallery of Art on Friday might be mentally ill. According to a published report, the woman told police that the painting of two bare-breasted Tahitian women is "very homosexual. I was trying to remove it. I think it should be burned ... I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you."

If she is deranged, one wonders: What is the excuse for the Washington City Paper, which Tuesday published a story with the headline "Three Works at the National Gallery We’d Have Defaced Before Gauguin"?

The alternative tabloid proceeded to "recommend" three works in the museum's collection more suitable for trashing than the Post-Impressionist picture, which is on loan from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to a popular traveling exhibition. One of the three writers even explains, "Actually, I've been defacing a work of art very subtly since September last year," claiming to regularly add colored pencil marks to a Sol LeWitt wall drawing at the museum.

The story appears in the paper's ArtsDesk blog, not on a comedy page, where standards would probably be higher.

The authors do bend over backwards to say they "recoiled at the news" of the original attack, and in a lame attempt at wit repeat variations of "don't try this at [your] home [museum]." But I suspect the shiver that ran down the spines of every museum curator around the globe when the Gauguin story first appeared, fearing possible copycats, will get a new jolt from what amounts to water-cooler tomfoolery now posted by art critics on the Internet.

Initial examination of the Gauguin painting showed no damage, according to conservators at the National Gallery, although study continues. (The painting was behind Plexiglass.) That's a good thing.

So was the quick action of the museum guard who intervened in what can only be described as a sad event, both for the art and for the plainly troubled attacker. Washington City Paper is an alternative newspaper, but who knew that the alternative to sad was dumb?


Smith Art review: 'David Smith: Cubes & Anarchy' at LACMA

Art review: 'Vija Celmins: Television and Disaster, 1964-1966' at LACMA

Art review: 'William Leavitt: Theater Objects' at MOCA

-- Christopher Knight


Photo: Paul Gauguin, "Two Tahitian Women," 1898. Credit: Associated Press / National Gallery of Art

Comments () | Archives (12)

Someone really needs to read that comedy section and watch Comedy Central instead of art sites more often.Talk about lack of humor,sheeesh!
And the red pencil can only help LeWitts doodles. If he was truly an heir to Duchamp, he would be pleased. Obviously no one noticed, as no one truly looks or if they do have learned to see.
Its a joke folks! Sheeesh. Dont hear you screaming about burning the Quran.
Get over yourselves. Though thankfuly they had plexi over the real artwork.

It's sad that something so beautiful needs to be covered at all. Even by Plexiglass. But it's always wise to protect your girls. Literally and figuratively.

DF, the burning of the Quran led to the deaths of people in protests and not the damage of a painting. Where was their shield from the words of an ignorant and hateful man? Why isn't that "evangelical" pastor being mentally evaluated? Because he's not crazy? Words do matter, and you're being a scrabble rouser. It stinks.

Would you like to see my artwork? Or would you just attack it like you've done Solo LeWit's?

Satire, I believe, is protected under the First Amendment. As is, unfortunately, stuffy cultural elitism.

Are YOU serious? It was a JOKE. Anyone who reads that article gets that. Do you read The Onion? I received it in that spirit.

These writers are well-informed and extremely productive and involved in the art community in DC. They're kidding. Get a grip, and take the time to respond to some of the substantive things these authors write about sometime too. For crying out loud, you are astoundingly ridiculous, patting yourself on the back for serving as the art world's moral compass.

LessWitt if truly a Duchamp disciple would have enjoyed the added lines, another exquisite corpse. He was anti art after all, it was all a joke you see. Some took it serious, but those of us with intelligence sees things for what they are. As did the people at this paper, just saying what all intelligent folks believe, contempt art is nonsense, and can only help it by adding.
Contempt Art people think they are mini gods so ignore the basic human dimension of God, which is but purpose and finding inner peace. Those in turmoil hate what they cant understand, and turn to games therapy and self absorbed expression.

Asalaamu alaikum
Gods peace unto you.

Maybe I've misunderstood you all along, DF, but what's the difference between "contempt" art (as you always call it) and "contemporary" art? Are you saying the two are the same? If so, I think there's a big difference--a huge gap--between contemporary art and you showing your contempt for it AND, worse, for the people who create it.

Peace be with you, DF. (That's the first time you've signed off without tearing down art and music colleges in Latin--but I only speak English, so what would I know.)

My wife is raised Muslim as I was Episcopalian, and the greeting the exact same in each religion. Though they are truly the same, Muhammed but a continuation of what was seen as interpretive errors in Isa's(Jesus, Yeshua true name) teachings.
Lefties as ignorant as their righty brothers. Balance in all things. And inner peace the goal through self discipline, humility, charity, and responsibility. Not virtues taught in our artiste Academies, where hubris is all.

Contempt art IS academic contemporary art, it is all about itself, and castes aside all else. Ignorant in learning and craftsmanship, it believes itself to bee above all others in thought and deed, though very little indeed.

Art has a purpose in human culture, it is NOT human culture itself. Creative art is of man, nature and god as one, expressIVE of all, not self expressive, which is but self worship, and so, blasphemous to mankind itself. You are not seperate and better, or equal. By seperating yourselves, you become less. much less. And so, irrelevant,.
And so it is.

Could someone please give Frazell a job so he could do something useful rather than ranting every day in the Times?

This attack on Two Tahitian Women is very sad, of course. What's also tragic is how the Metropolitan Museum of Art ruined the delicate balance of Gauguin's composition when they 'restored' the painting a while back. It remains a shadow of its former and original self, something like how the acoustics of Carnegie Hall were ruined when it was given a 'facelift.'

It's probably time for you to lighten up, Christopher.

This is a pretty over-the-top reaction to what i read as a very juvenile and very obvious joke. These are obviously not some kind of anti-art terrorists we are dealing with... you got suckered.

It concerns me a lot that these people can so easily come to public places and threaten the visitors as well as the precious works of art. I hope much more attention will be paid to her behavior now that she’s “become famous”.


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