A painting valued at more than $1 million was ruined after a security guard decided to draw eyes on faceless figures depicted in an artwork in a Russian gallery. The damaged painting was “Three Figures” (1932-1943) by artist Anna Leporskaya and was part of an abstract art exhibition at the Yeltsin Center in the western Russian city of Yekaterinburg.
The security guard has not been identified but is believed to be in his 60s, worked for a private security company and was on his first day on the job. According to a statement from the Yeltsin Center, the expensive painting was damaged on December 7th last year, when two visitors spotted the curious details on the painting that was part of the exhibition called “The World as Objectivity, the Birth of a New Art.”
According to local media, the guard was “bored” during his job debut and has since been fired. The damage was done with a ballpoint pen. “We inform you that during the investigation the person who painted the eyes on the figures in Anna Leporskaya’s painting was identified; it is an employee of a private security organization that carries out security activities of the Yeltsin Center,” reads the statement.
For its part, the work was sent to the Moscow gallery the day after the anomaly was found and was inspected by an art restorer. The act, classified as “vandalism” by the Russian authorities, could result in a fine of more than $535 and a sentence of one year’s correctional work.
According to the restorer of the State Tretyakov Gallery, who is working on the artwork, the damage can be repaired without affecting the painting in the long term, because although the ink from the pen penetrated the paint layer, the vandal’s smooth stroke makes it possible for it to be erased.
But the damage and the cost of restoring the work has been estimated at $3,348 (2,900 euros). It is unclear how much the painting is worth, but it was insured with Alfa Insurance Company for more than $1 million (881,000 euros).
The company where the security guard worked is reportedly paying for the restoration. The artist Leporskaya, who was born in 1900 and died at age 82 in 1982, was a student of the renowned Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich. She also worked with other avant-garde artists, including Nikolai Suetin and Lev Yudin.
She is known primarily as a master of artistic porcelain. In addition to the Tretyakov Gallery, her works are widely represented in the collection of the Russian Museum.