A Russian security guard at Yekaterinburg’s Yeltsin Center who drew eyes on an abstract painting by avant-garde artist Anna Leporskaya last December was found guilty of hooliganism by the local magistrates’ court on Monday. According to the art newspapermust complete 180 hours of “compulsory work” and undergo a “psychiatric evaluation.”
The painting, titled three figures (1932-1934), was loaned to the Yeltsin Center by the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and valued at 75 million rubles ($1.2 million).
News of the vandalism broke when visitors alerted gallery staff to two crude eyes drawn in ballpoint pen on the faceless figures in the painting. A police investigation revealed that the culprit was Aleksandr Vasiliev, 64, a security guard employed by a private company. It was his first day on the job.
The Yeltsin Center filed a complaint with the police, but the Yekaterinburg Ministry of Internal Affairs initially refused to press charges against Vasiliev, as the damage was deemed “insignificant”. The painting was restored and has since been returned to the Tretyakov Estate.
Vasiliev’s life story has also come to light: he is a decorated veteran of the Afghan and Chechen wars, in which he suffered physical and physiological injuries. He was also mentally struggling with the death of his wife and the murder of his son. In an interview with the Russian news site E1, he said he believed Leporskaya’s 20th-century work to be a “children’s drawing” and claimed that he was goaded by teenagers to deface it.
“I am a fool, what have I done?” he said.
The Tretyakov State has refused to request that the charges against Vasiliev be dropped. On August 15, Vasiliev’s lawyer, Aleskei Bushmakov, shared a letter on Vasiliev’s Facebook page that he sent to Zelfira Tregulova, general director of the Tretyakov Gallery.
He wrote that “taking into account the circumstances of the criminal case, the damage inflicted on the painting three figures” and “the high level of public attention in relation to the incident”, the museum considered closing the case “through reconciliation”, but finally decided that it “does not consider it possible to present such an appeal to the magistrate”.