Art Market

The student who punched a Picasso painting at Tate Modern was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Justin Kamp
Aug 27, 2020 3:55PM, via Evening Standard

Pablo Picasso, Bust of a Woman, 1944, on view at Tate Modern. Photo by jpellgen, via Flickr.

The student who intentionally damaged Pablo Picasso’s Bust Of A Woman (1944) at the Tate Modern last December has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. Shakeel Ryan Massey, a 20-year-old Spanish architecture student, wrapped his hands in padlocks and scarves during his visit to the museum last year in order to smash through the glass that protected the $26.3-million masterpiece. As he threw the painting to the ground, Massey told nearby security guards that he was carrying out a piece of performance art.

Judge Jeremy Donne QC told Massey in his sentencing, as quoted by Evening Standard:

It is difficult to conclude anything other than this offence was committed for the purpose of notoriety. Apart from the fact you are just 20, I have no evidence before me that you were particularly naïve or particularly immature. There is nothing to suggest you were anything other than a 20-year-old seeking fame.

The portrait, which depicts the artist Dora Maar, Picasso’s muse, in his signature Cubist style, is currently undergoing an extensive 18-month-long restoration process, estimated to cost up to £350,000 ($461,000). It is unclear what effect the damage will have on the work’s value in the long term.

The Tate Modern was previously the site of defacement in the name of performance art in 2012, when Polish artist Włodzimierz Umaniec—who goes by Vladimir Umanets and is a proponent of an art movement he’s dubbed Yellowism—inscribed a number of words, including his name, in ink on the corner of Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon (1958). He later compared his act to works by Marcel Duchamp. Umaniec was sentenced to two years in prison following the incident.

Further Reading: Art Gets Damaged All the Time. Here’s How It Gets Back to the Market

Justin Kamp