The 60-year-old guard, who worked for a private security company, had come in for his first day at his new job when boredom drove him to draw a pair of eyes on a million-dollar painting with a ballpoint pen. The guard, who was fired after the incident, now faces a fine of $537 and a one-year prison sentence.
The incident took place at an abstract art exhibition at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center, also known simply as the Yeltsin Center, a social, cultural and educational center opened in western Russia’s Yekaterinburg in 2015.
The Yeltsin Center stated that the 60-year-old guard had defaced artist Anna Leporskaya’s painting “Three Figures” – a piece that was produced between 1932 and 1934 – by drawing a pair of eyes on the faceless figures of the painting, with a pen on his first day.
The eyes were spotted by a couple of visitors on Dec. 7, 2021, during an exhibition called “The World as Non-Objectivity: The Birth of a New Art,” and was reported to the authorities shortly afterward.
The Yeltsin Center said that the guard was fired and that it would reveal his identity. The painting was borrowed from the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world.
The painting was sent to Moscow after the damage was determined. It has been examined by an art restorer, who said that the painting could be restored and the eyes could be removed without damaging the artwork.
“The ink has slightly penetrated into the paint layer, since the titanium white used to paint the faces is not covered with author’s varnish, as is often the case in abstract painting of that time,” Ivan Petrov wrote in the Art Newspaper, which broke the story, according to The Guardian.
A vandalism investigation was initiated by the police, with the guard given a fine of $537 and a one-year prison sentence.
It was stated that the damage and restoration cost of the painting was $3,359, and the cost of the restoration has been covered by the company who hired the security guard.
While the value of Leporskaya’s abstract painting “Three Figures” is not known exactly, the painting was previously insured by an insurance firm for over one million dollars.
Leporskaya, who was born in 1900 and died at age 82 in 1982, was a student of the renowned avant-garde Russian artist Kazimir Malevich. She also worked with other avant-garde artists, including Nikolai Suetin and Lev Yudin.
She is known primarily as a master of artistic porcelain. In addition to the Tretyakov Gallery, her works are widely represented in the collection of the Russian Museum.