Security guard accused of drawing eyes on avant-garde painting in Russian exhibit

YEKATERINBURG, Russia — A security guard has been fired from a Russian social, cultural and educational center on suspicion of defacing a valuable Soviet-era painting by drawing eyes on intentionally faceless figures in the avant-garde work.

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“His motives are still unknown, but the administration believes it was some kind of a lapse in sanity,” Anna Reshetkina, exhibition curator at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center in Yekaterinburg told Russian website ura.ru.

Two visitors spotted eyes drawn in ballpoint pen on Anna Leporskaya’s “Three Figures,” prompting the guard’s dismissal and a criminal investigation, the BBC reported.

Reshetkina confirmed in a prepared statement that the painting was defaced with a “Yeltsin Center-branded pen.”

According to The Guardian, Ivan Petrov described the damage as follows for the Art Newspaper, which broke the story: “The ink has slightly penetrated into the paint layer, since the titanium white used to paint the faces is not covered with author’s varnish, as is often the case in abstract painting of that time.”

“Fortunately, the vandal drew with a pen without strong pressure, and therefore the relief of the strokes as a whole was not disturbed. The left figure also had a small crumble of the paint layer up to the underlying layer on the face,” Petrov added.

The Yeltsin Center visitors first noticed the vandalism on Dec. 7, 2021, prompting the painting’s removal from the abstract art exhibit and its return to the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, which had loaned the painting, The Guardian reported.

The incident occurred on the unidentified security guard’s first day on the job, and Tretyakov officials estimated that the restoration of “Three Figures” will cost a little more than $3,200, the BBC reported.

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