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13 Feb, 2022 07:59

Museum security guard under investigation for drawing eyes on painting

The man is suspected of vandalizing the work of art worth more than $1 million
Museum security guard under investigation for drawing eyes on painting

Police in the Russian city of Ekaterinburg have opened an investigation after a security guard was accused of drawing eyes on a painting during his shift in an art gallery.

Ekaterinburg is around 1,500km east of Moscow and is the country’s fourth largest city.

The vandalism case is alleged to have taken place on December 7, when a security guard supposedly defaced the avant-garde painting ‘Three Figures’ by Anna Leporskaya, a piece insured for almost $1 million. It was on display at the Yeltsin Center, a cultural and educational institution named after Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin.

The accused guard was working for a private company that provides security at a gallery inside the building, the Yeltsin Center’s executive director, Alexander Drozdov, said in a statement. Speaking to local website URA, the exhibition’s curator, Anna Reshetkina, revealed that it was the contractor’s first day on the job.

The painting itself was on loan from Russia’s most renowned art repository, the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, for the exhibition ‘The World as Non-Objectivity’, which will run until later this month. The artist, Anna Leporskaya, who died in 1982, was a student of the world-famous artist Kazimir Malevich, who developed an avant-garde movement that took the art world by storm in the 1920s.

The abstract 1930s work depicts the heads and torsos of three people with faces intentionally devoid of features. Last month, visitors noticed a pair of “small, crudely rendered eyes” on the left figure and reported the defacement to gallery staff. The suspected gallery security guard had allegedly drawn the eyes using one of the souvenir ballpoint pens available from the gallery, penetrating a layer of paint, according to The Art Newspaper Russia.


The damage to ‘Three Figures’ has been deemed reversible, with repair costs estimated at $3,400 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The pen marks were made “lightly,” artist Ivan Petrov, a journalist for The Art Newspaper Russia, said, noting that “the ink has slightly penetrated the paint layer.”

The damage to the painting was not reported by the Yeltsin Center until December 20, almost two weeks after the vandalism was discovered. Despite the presence of CCTV cameras, the museum has also failed to provide a picture of the culprit.

The identity of the vandal, therefore, remains unknown, but the 60-year-old guard suspected of the act has since been fired. A criminal case has been opened against the former employee who, if found guilty, could face a fine and up to three months in prison, according to Moscow daily RBK.

Anna Reshetkina said the guard’s motives are “still unknown,” and described his alleged act as “some kind of lapse in sanity.”