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Man jailed for 2 years for defacing Rothko work

A Polish man who defaced a Mark Rothko painting in London’s Tate Modern gallery with black ink to promote an obscure artistic creed was sentenced yesterday to two years in jail.

Wlodzimierz Umaniec, also known as Vladimir Umanets, was arrested after visitors discovered a scrawl across the bottom of Rothko’s “Black on Maroon” on Oct 7.

The 26-year-old later said he had written the words “a potential piece of yellowism” on the abstract painting to draw attention to Yellowism, an artistic movement he co-founded. A manifesto on the website expounds upon the terms “art” and defines the concept as “not art or anti-art.”

Umaniec pleaded guilty to criminal damage more than $8,000. Prosecution lawyer Gregor McKinley said restoring the painting would cost around $320,000 and take up to 20 months.

“Complications to this work include the unique painting technique used by the artist and the fact the ink used by Mr. Umaniec has permeated the paint layers and the canvas itself,” he said.

Passing sentence at Inner London Crown Court, judge Roger Chapple said it was “wholly and utterly unacceptable” to promote the movement by damaging a work of art that had been “a gift to the nation.”

Tate Modern said in a statement it was “pleased that the court has recognized the severity of this incident and its consequences.”

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