SEOUL – The couple saw brushes and paint cans in front of a paint-splintered canvas in a gallery of Seoul shopping malls. So he added a few brush strokes, assuming it was a participatory mural.
Not at all: The painting was a work by an American artist whose abstract aesthetic relies on street art. According to the organizers of the exhibition displaying the painting, the piece is valued at more than $ 400,000.
It is now difficult to tell where the artist’s work ends and vandalism begins. “A local newspaper,” graffiti, Title Said last week.
Either way, the piece by John Andrew Perello, “Untitled”, is known as graffiti artist Jonon, Is now a magnet for selfies. And on social media, South Koreans are debating what vandalism is about art, authorship and authenticity.
The artwork is displayed with paint cans, brushes and shoes that the artist worked on, which Kang Wook, one of the organizers of the exhibition, said in an interview. “There were directions and notices, but the couple did not pay attention,” he said.
Some social media users echoed Mr. Kang’s argument. Others say the sign was confusing and the couple should not be blamed.
Some suggest that the event itself was a form of contemporary art, or that the couple’s abstract brush strokes – three dark-green spots covering an area of about 35 by 11 inches – improved this piece .
The debate is notable partly because the crime was not intentionally committed and the painting could be reinstated, said Ken Kim, an art restoration expert in Seoul who has witnessed the act of vandalism.
The painting is part of “Street Noise”, an exhibition that opened in Seoul’s Lotte World Mall in February and features 130 artifacts by an international group of more than a dozen graffiti artists. Mr Kang said mall employees noticed on March 28 that the painting had been torn down, and identified the couple by examining security footage.
Local news media reported that the couple was arrested, but police determined that the vandalism was accidental. Mr Kang said the couple told police that they thought the artwork was open to public participation.
The couple has not been identified and cannot be reached for comment.
The artist, John One, said in an interview on Wednesday that he was disappointed and angry that his work had “gone awry”, though some have said that publicity may work in his favor.
“Art should be religious,” he said. “You don’t paint on a church.”
John One said that the barbarity of his work in Seoul made him feel like growing up in New York City and not appreciating his talent.
As a teenager, he would sign his graffiti with the tag “JohnOne”. His style later became more abstract, although he continued to use graffiti as the foundation of his work. Now 57 and living in Paris, he has described its beauty as an “abstract expressionist graffiti”, an allusion to Jackson Pollock and other American artists who redefined modern painting in the years following World War II did.
Julian Jouley, a gallerist in Zurich who specializes in graffiti art and has exhibited JohnOne paintings over the years, said they often received strong reactions from audiences.
“Some people are full of praise and others think that a child can do better,” he said. “Of course, I’m in the first category.”
Mr Collie said he was surprised that the couple who tampered with the “untitled” in Seoul thought they could “interfere” with an artwork that hung in a gallery – but also that they did not think They intended to “destroy” it.
“I can understand that people may have thought that they could do better than the artist by participating in this work at the very least,” he said.
Mr Kang said that a decision would be taken on whether to re-install the “Untitled” before the exhibition concludes on June 13.. The restoration could cost about $ 9,000, he said, and the insurance company may be partially liable for the costs.
“But we are worried,” he said, “because many comments are saying that the artwork should not be restored, and will remain as it is.”