Apollo
Rakewell

The crème de la crème of bungled art attacks

30 May 2022

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

The Mona Lisa is no stranger to vandalism. In the past century it has been attacked with a razorblade, a rock, sulphuric acid, red spray paint and a ceramic teacup – to say nothing of Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q., nor the notorious theft of the painting in 1911, for which Pablo Picasso was for a while the prime suspect. But never in the 500-year history of the world’s most famous painting has it been subject to quite such a half-baked act of attempted sabotage as it was yesterday (Sunday 29 May).

Every detail of this story is pure, bewildering slapstick – a man disguised as an elderly woman entered the Louvre and made his way to La Joconde, before leaping from his wheelchair, trying and failing to smash the protective glass (which has, since 1960, been bulletproof), and resorting at last to smearing cream cake across it. There was to be no cherry on this cake, but the man did then sprinkle the gallery with rose petals, before exhorting the usual logjam of smartphone-wielding spectators to ‘Think of the earth!’

Rakewell is, in general, loathe to elevate crumby publicity stunts of this sort through comparisons with performance art. But, all the same, your correspondent can’t help but be reminded of the Fluxus artist Wolf Vostell’s Dé-coll/age musique, performed at Wiesbaden Festival in 1962, which involved the artist standing behind a piece of glass while both he and his audience smeared it with cream cake. This particular performance provoked the ire of Fluxus founder George Maciunas, in words which any copy-cake protestors today might do well to remember: ‘I think it immoral to destroy food, besides I like cakes.’

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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