Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Art of Knowing When Not To Do Something.

In 1974, a man went up the stairs of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and looked for his prey. That day this man was going to skip the steps to infamy by what was in his pocket, a spray can with bright red paint. Everything was right on cue. He called the press outlets just three minutes earlier to alert them of what he was about to do. He claims that he had no one painting in mind, that he went to the Guernica quite by opportunity and sprayed "KILL LIES ALL" across two thirds of the painting. In his words, he wanted to "bring it up to date". A museum visitor tried to stop him but was pushed back. The guards came and took him away. The police arrested him and he was out on $1,000 bail, paid for by Richard Serra, the sculptor. Why would Serra bail out this lunatic? This destroyer of a Picasso masterpiece? Because Tony Shafrazi was a self proclaimed "artist" and after all he only wanted to make a statement against world events at the time. Yeah, I remember those world events too. Not to be so preachy but I went to an anti-war demonstration every fucking week, sometimes twice a week. And let me tell you that for a 17 year old with a lot of crap on their plate, that was pretty damn good. 
At the time, people in the art world were horrified and thought he was either nuts or another "artist" wannabe. Get that 15 minutes of fame and you are in like Flynn, right?  Well, not so fast...let's look at the newspaper story from that week.

Tony Shafrazi got 6 months probation. That's it. MOMA did not want any publicity on the ease of which a person can go up to any work of art in MOMA and deface it. 
So what happened to Shafrazi? Well, he made a nice little life for himself as an art dealer in the 80's. He continues to sell work on the secondary market. But he does not escape the vandalism that he perpetuated on Guernica on that frigid winter day in 1974. 
In 2008 Shafrazi had a show that he named "Who's Afraid of Jasper Johns" in his New York gallery. At the after show party he was presented with a cake, on top of which was a Guernica done in black and white icing. He was then presented with a can of red icing. His guests awaited his next action.... he takes the can and writes on the icing Guernica, "I'M SORRY". He dramatically waits a few seconds and then writes "NOT".  
It's been said that Shafrazi defaced the Guernica in 1974 because of all the world issues pressing his conscious. No, my belief is that he chose that cold day in Febuary 1974 because Picasso had died in April of 1973. And that was an act of complete cowardice. Because I believe that had Picasso been alive, he would have punched Shafrazi square in his dilettante face.

After show party of "Who's Afraid of Jasper Johns?" with Guernica cake. Shafrazi is the grey haired man in the middle.

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