The room containing Rothko's Seagram collection is considered an immersion experience. Nine paintings line the walls of the secluded viewing area inside the Tate Modern, making up the first series where the artist's goal was to surround and intimidate the viewer.
Originally these paintings had been commissioned by the Four Season's restaurant in the New York Seagram's building, which rubbed Rothko the wrong way. He later told John Fischer of Harper's that he designed the work specifically to "ruin the appetite of every son of a bitch who ever eats in that room."
They never made it to the Four Seasons. Instead, Rothko donated part of the collection to the Tate, with the understanding that they would remain accessible to viewers using low-standing partitions and would hang in an intimate parlor-type setting. Vandal Vladimir Umanet didn't absorb the tone of the work on Sunday. Instead, he tagged it. Not only that: He signed it.
He wrote "Vladimir Umanets, A Potential Piece of Yellowism" along the lower right hand corner of the unnamed painting, which is commonly referred to as "Black on Maroon." The graffiti references Umanets' website which he co-authors with Marcin Lodyga, thisisyellowism.com.
The site provides a conceptual spin of a new movement the pair is shopping around, and it comes with a lengthy manifesto and guideline for what is, and isn't, "yellow." The site itself is all too familiar -- loaded with '80s marketing references, Gifs and neon links. It could be any recent art school grad's page who is out to redefine a system that doesn't yet include him. He was arrested yesterday and his co-collaborator posted this message on the thisisyellowism website:
Yellowist Vladimir Umanets didn't destroy Mark Rothko's painting in Tate Modern, it was not an act of vandalism. He signed the Rothko's painting and thus show that this painting is a potential piece of Yellowism. This action informs the contemporary world, that Rothko's painting can stop to be a work of art and can become a piece of Yellowism - If Rothko's painting was placed in a yellowistic chamber then it would not be a work of art anymore and would express yellow color only; it would be a definition of yellow given in a form of Rothko's painting.
Yellowism is not an art movement. Yellowism is the new context in contemporary culture. Yellowist, based on the definition and Manifesto of Yellowism, can sign any object or being or any work of art to show that it can be transported to the new context and become an example of Yellowism. Don't call Umanets an artist. He is not an artist, he is a Yellowist. He resigned from art. Yellowism is not a form of art. It is a new context in which the value of Rothko's painting increase.
The Radical Change of Perception. Now.
by Marcin Lodyga
All I have to say is this: What a pussy.
You could argue that the ballsiest way to convert one form of art into another is by signing it. I would disagree. Pierre Pinoncelli was arrested TWICE, for his performance art attack on Duchamp's Fountain. First, for damaging and urinating in the thing and next for hitting it with a hammer. That's dedication, and I kind of think Duchamp might have enjoyed it.
Yuan Chai and Jian Jun Xi stripped down to their underwear for their art subversion, then got all giddy bouncing around on Tracey Emin's rumpled up bed sheets. They were, of course, caught. But they also went faced-to-face with Emin's used condoms and menstrual-soaked underwear to prove their point.
Jubal Brown chugged red food coloring before vomiting on a Raoul Dufy at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which was a follow-up performance to his '96 feat of abdominal expulsion where he let it rip on Piet Mondrian's Composition in Red, White and Blue.
So what I'm saying is this: Have your trendy moment, Vladimir Umanets. But your end result is powerless and underplayed. If you're going to piss on something to make it your own, actually do it. Or at least stick around and hold a Q&A, rather than scampering off. Because now, somewhere a crew of preteens are standing behind a 7-11, Sharpies in hand, laughing at you and your wussy manifesto.