Recently, news broke that someone spray painted a stencil of a bull and a bull fighter standing above the word “conquista” on to Pablo Picasso’s Woman in Red Armchair, which is on display at The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. Allegedly the vandalism was done by street artist Uriel Landeros as a dedication to “the art beast Pablo Picasso”. My gut reaction is: this guy’s an idiot.
There is a very important difference between street art and the “high” art found in museums. It has nothing to do with quality or merit or even content. In fact, I think street art is often a better way to convey a message or emotion than some more traditional outlets. The difference I see between the two is the longevity of the original. Museums currently hold paintings hundreds of years old, maintaining them in as pristine conditions as possible. Street art, at its purest form, is unfortunately washed away. Some street art is allowed to stay up, but the majority is not. The original, the spray painted image on a wall in the middle of Chicago or Bristol or any other city, is seen for a day or a week or a year before it is taken away; destroyed. There are pictures taken of the art and a knowledgeable person or two will have seen the work in its original glory, but ultimately it will be gone and that’s okay. Street artists accept this and move onto their next creation. Nothing lasts forever.
It seems that this is the mindset that has been applied to what happened with the vandalism of the Picasso painting. I simply don’t think that is right. Whatever the ideas of acceptance are in one community to the other, there should be some respect towards each other. This act showed not even the slightest bit of respect and unfortunately appears to just be a way for the Landeros to get his name out there and some bragging rights. It’s stupid. I’m sure there will be people comparing the act to that of Bansky when his placed his art in museums unbeknownst to the curators. However, it’s not the same. Banksy was making a statement against what is considered “high” art (or he wasn’t, I’m not Banksy) and never actually defaced an original. He placed his work next them, not on them (his other work messes around with prints and such, not originals). Video of the Picasso vandalism was shown on the local Houston news, which Landeros linked on his Facebook. You can watch it below.
Vandalism of art is nothing new. Even Banksy’s work that has found a long life on the street wall has been vandalized. Bansky also may have incited this with some of his own vandalism on King Robbo’s street art. Nothing is black and white, especially when it comes to art. What is fine in one realm is not in the other. Luckily the Picasso painting was quickly taken and most of the damage has been dealt with. I’m sure people will bring up ideas of freedom of expression and the intention of the vandalism, but let’s face it, this “conquista” is idiotic. I firmly believe that street art is worthy vandalism (I know a lot of people don’t agree), but the stencil on Picasso’s painting is just shit.