Should we be vandalising art a bit more often?

A painting by Nicolas Poussin was vandalised while hanging on public display in the National Gallery this weekend. It got me wondering whether a bit more red spray paint would actually be a good thing for art?

Poussin vandalised

Poussin's Adoration of the Golden Calf as vandalised by me

Because I have no idea how to contact Steven Dear and ask him if I can use the photo he was on hand to snap of the vandalised work I have recreated the experience with uncanny accuracy using Photoshop. It leads into my point pretty well though – regardless of the reasons  behind this particular offence, would a dose of red paint be healthy for art institutions?

In the same way that we scribble notes in margins, highlight and underline text and fold back pages when studying novels, I suspect visible critiques of artworks – particularly those by the old masters – would encourage a more active contemplation from museum visitors.

Going to a gallery like the National, you may sometimes find pieces of critique in the informative short text next to the picture but often, without a modicum of prior knowledge (whether it’s of Bible stories, greek mythology, royal portraiture motifs or that particular artist’s output), it can be difficult to find a way in to the work.

This is where a spot of red ink could prove invaluable, directing attention and flagging up points of interest in no uncertain terms. A kind of academic Perez Hilton.

Death of Marat

The Death of Marat -Jacques Louis David (amended)

More than this, there is also scope for drawing out the negative. Just because the picture was by a famous artist doesn’t mean it’s perfect. This is something that rankles with me – the idea that a great artist isn’t capable of producing works of absolute chuff alongside the good stuff – and the fact that art can’t generally be mass reproduced in quite the same way as text means that no matter how good or bad a work it has to be treated as sacrosanct so that future generations can draw their own conclusions.

Sistine Chapel

The problem with Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling

Of course, I’m taking the point to the extreme but look at the images I’ve put in the post and tell me they’re not, at the very least, immediately accessible.

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