SEOUL — The couple noticed brushes and paint cans in front of a paint-splattered canvas at a gallery in a Seoul purchasing mall. So they extra a handful of brush strokes, assuming it was a participatory mural.
Not fairly: The painting was a completed operate by an American artist whose abstract aesthetic riffs on street artwork. The piece is really worth a lot more than $400,000, in accordance to the organizers of the exhibition that featured the painting.
Now it is really hard to inform in which the artist’s operate ends and the vandalism starts. “Graffitied graffiti,” a nearby newspaper headline explained final week.
Both way, the piece, “Untitled,” by John Andrew Perello, the graffiti artist identified as JonOne, is now a magnet for selfies. And on social media, South Koreans are debating what the vandalism illustrates about artwork, authorship and authenticity.
The artwork is displayed with paint cans, brushes and footwear that the artist applied when he worked on it, one particular of the exhibition’s organizers, Kang Wook, explained in an interview. He extra, “There have been pointers and a recognize, but the couple did not pay out consideration.”
Some social media consumers have echoed Mr. Kang’s reasoning. Other individuals say the signal was perplexing and the couple ought to not be blamed.
A handful of propose that the incident itself was a type of modern artwork, or that the couple’s abstract brush strokes — 3 dark-green blotches covering an region about 35 inches by eleven inches — have enhanced the piece.
The debate is notable in element for the reason that the crime was not intentional and the painting can be restored, explained Ken Kim, an artwork restoration skilled in Seoul who has observed the vandalized operate.
The painting is element of “Street Noise,” an exhibition that opened at Lotte Planet Mall in Seoul in February and functions about 130 artworks by an worldwide group of a lot more than a dozen graffiti artists. Mr. Kang explained the personnel at the mall observed on March 28 that the painting had been vandalized, and recognized the couple by checking safety footage.
The couple have been arrested but launched right after the police established that the vandalism was accidental, the nearby information media reported. Mr. Kang explained the couple informed the police that they had considered the artwork was open to public participation.
The couple have not been recognized and could not be reached for comment.
The artist, JonOne, explained in an interview on Wednesday that he was disappointed and angry that his operate had been “defaced,” even though some folks have explained the publicity could operate in his favor.
“Art ought to be religious,” he explained. “You really don’t paint on a church.”
JonOne explained the vandalism of his operate in Seoul reminded him of increasing up in New York City and the feeling that his talent was not appreciated.
As a teenager, he would signal his graffiti with the tag “JonOne.” His fashion later on grew to become a lot more abstract, even though he continued to use graffiti lettering as the basis for his operate. Now 57 and residing in Paris, he has described his aesthetic as “abstract expressionist graffiti,” a nod to Jackson Pollock and other American artists who redefined modern-day painting in the many years right after Planet War II.
Julien Kolly, a gallerist in Zurich who specializes in graffiti artwork and has exhibited JonOne paintings in excess of the many years, explained that they usually prompted powerful reactions from viewers.
“Some are complete of praise and many others assume that a youngster could do superior,” he explained. “Of program, I am in the initial group.”
Mr. Kolly explained that he wondered why the couple who vandalized “Untitled” in Seoul considered they could “intervene” in an artwork that was hanging in a gallery — but also that he did not assume they meant to “destroy” it.
“I can realize that folks may possibly have considered that they could, at the extremely least, do superior than the artist by participating in this operate,” he extra.
Mr. Kang explained a determination about whether or not to restore “Untitled” would be created just before the exhibition ends on June 13. The restoration could price about $9,000, he extra, and the insurance coverage firm may possibly discover the couple partially liable for the price.
“But we are concerned,” he extra, “because there are lots of feedback saying that the artwork ought to not be restored, and stay as it is.”