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18 Nov, 2022 08:36

Sentence of museum guard who ‘fixed’ art overturned

Drawing eyes on figures on a valuable painting does not constitute a felony, a court has decided
Sentence of museum guard who ‘fixed’ art overturned

An appellate judge in Russia has overturned the guilty verdict of a museum security guard who used a pen to ‘fix’ a painting by a student of avant-garde master Kazimir Malevich.

The actions of Aleksandr Vasilyev, who altered a work that was on display at the gallery he was guarding, do not constitute a felony, a judge in Ekaterinburg ruled, according to a TASS report from the courthouse on Friday.

The ruling struck down the punishment of 180 hours of community service and court-mandated psychiatric treatment, which were part of Vasilyev’s initial sentence handed down in late August by a magistrate judge at the same court.

The new ruling says that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant had the intention of vandalizing the work of art. It also agreed with an expert witness who argued that the act of adding eyes to the faceless figures in the painting does not constitute disfigurement and thus does not qualify as vandalism.

The incident happened in late 2021 at the Yeltsin Center Museum in Ekaterinburg, which employed Vasilyev, who is in his 60s, as a security guard. It had on display the 1930s painting ‘Three Figures’ by Anna Leporskaya, on loan from the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. 

During the initial trial, Vasilyev claimed that he thought the piece was the work of a child and of little value when he took his pen to it. The owner estimated the value of the painting at 75 million rubles ($1.24 million) and said restoration cost 250,000 rubles ($4,138), which was paid by an insurance company.