Man Who Damaged Rothko Painting Gets Two Years In Jail

By BethPH Last edited 65 months ago
Man Who Damaged Rothko Painting Gets Two Years In Jail

A man who damaged a Mark Rothko painting in Tate Modern has been sentenced to two years in jail. That's right, TWO years.

Back in October, Wlodzimierz Umaniec, described as the co-founder of an artistic movement called "yellowism", daubed his name and the words "12, a potential piece of yellowism" on the painting, called Black on Maroon. As an exercise in art criticism it's certainly pushing the boundaries, and Umaniec was subsequently arrested and charged.

While he said his defacement of the painting wasn't vandalism, others disagreed, notably Judge Roger Chapple, who described Umaniec's unusual method of promoting yellowism "wholly and utterly unacceptable". Whatever your opinion of Rothko or the contents of the Tate Modern in general, we think two years seems a tad excessive. But in this new and crazy age of jailing people for being idiots on Twitter or naked on top of Prince George, it would appear to be the next logical step.

Art fans can rest assured though, the painting can be restored at a cost of about £200,000. The restoration is likely to take 18 months, by which time Wlodzimierz Umaniec may even be out of prison.

Photo by Ova Hamer in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Last Updated 13 December 2012


There's a trust relationship between galleries and visitors that allows you to get up close to paintings and see the detail. Vandalism like this damages that relationship and puts that closeness at risk. So, you may not like this particular painting, but wouldn't you be upset if all paintings in galleries were fenced off and put under glass?

Ed Matthews

I am trying to compare two years in jail for (admittedly) high profile vandalism, against sentences given to people who physically injure others. It seems disproportionate. I don;t condone the damage, but neither do I care very much about the painting. Dichotomy. If he'd injured someone - someone I don't know - I'd say bang him up. Discuss.


I actually feel 2 years is really lenient. The guy has caused £200,000 of damage and has caused all of the major arts institutions to rethink their security, which won't only be at our expense but will ruin the intimate experience of viewing the works.

A grade A tosser in my opinion

Andy Brice

Won't it cost us about £80,000 to jail him for two years? Since he's not exactly a threat to society, a sentence that actually serves as recompense for his crime would be far more appropriate.

But prison is becoming the only way we have of punishing people, because we don't have a serious community sentencing system in place. If we did, he could spend a year or two tagged and cleaning up vandalism.


Two years is wholly unreasonable especially as you could argue he made a daub more interesting.