The identity of the ‘bored’ security guard who vandalized a £740,000 painting in Russia has been unmasked as a decorated war hero for his military courage.
Alexander Vasiliev, 63, used a pen to scribble eyes on the blank faces of figures in Anna Leporskaya’s classic work Three Figures (1932-1934), which was on display at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center in Yekaterinburg.
He admitted: “I’m a fool, for what I’ve done.”
Vasiliev, who could face jail after police opened a vandalism investigation, told Yekaterinburg newspaper E1 he was encouraged by schoolgirls visiting the abstract art exhibit.
‘To be honest, I didn’t really like these pictures [at the exhibition],’ he said.
Alexander Vasiliev (pictured), 63, used a pen to scribble eyes on the blank faces of figures in Anna Leporskaya’s classic work Three Figures (1932-34)
ORIGINAL: Painting “Three Figures” (1932-1934) by artist Anna Leporskaya
The painting was defaced by security guard Vasiliev, who added two pairs of eyes to the artwork
‘They left a difficult impression. I tried to pass without looking [at them].
“I watched how people reacted and then I saw 16 or 17 year olds standing around and discussing why there were no eyes, no mouths and no beauty.
‘There were girls in the group, and they asked me: “Draw on the eyes, you work here”.’
Vasiliev claimed that he believed the paintings were the work of young people.
He continued, “I asked them, ‘Are these your works? They answered: “Yes”.
“They gave me a pen. I drew the eyes. I thought it was just their children’s drawings.
“I saw smiling people passing by,” he added.
Claiming he didn’t know how much the painting was worth, he said, “If only I knew it wasn’t the pictures of those kids and the paintings were brought from Moscow and they cost so much.”
‘What did I do?’
He claimed to have asked to return home soon after because his war wounds had begun to hurt.
During the Chechen war, the corps of senior lieutenant was riddled with bullets and was not expected to survive.
In 1995, he was one of four out of 36 soldiers in his detachment to survive a fierce firefight. He was then honored for his courage.
Vasiliev (pictured), who could face jail after police opened a vandalism investigation, told Yekaterinburg newspaper E1 he was encouraged by schoolgirls
His wife Yulia, a Covid nurse, said he was a ‘normal man’ but could be ‘naive like a child’.
She blamed her war wounds for her action.
But he was criticized by the Interior Ministry for his “aggressive” attitude during interrogations.
“He behaves quite aggressively, showing that he doesn’t like the whole process,” a source said.
The war hero said, “I want everyone to leave me alone. I want to live in peace with my wife.
After the incident, the painting was removed from display and returned to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, from where it was loaned.
Refurbishment costs were assessed at £2,500 and it was reported that the company where Vasiliev worked was paying for the restoration.
Previous reports indicated that Vasiliev had since been fired by the private security company hired by the gallery.
Police have opened an investigation into vandalism, with a fine of £395 (74.9 million Russian roubles) and a one-year term of correctional labour.
Speaking to Russian website ura.ru, exhibit curator Anna Reshetkina said it was the guard’s first day on the job.
“His motives are still unknown, but the administration believes it was some kind of lack of sanity,” she told the website.
She said the guard used a Yeltsin Center brand ballpoint pen to draw eyes to the board and penetrated a layer of paint.
Luckily, the damage wasn’t too deep because the suspect didn’t apply enough pressure to the canvas, according to The Art Newspaper Russia.
Two visitors enjoying an art exhibition titled ‘The World as Non-Objectivity’. The Birth of a New Art” at the Yeltsin Center spotted the additional details of two of the three figures on the 1930s painting on December 7 last year, reports the Journal of the Arts.
The work was then sent to the gallery in Moscow the following day and was inspected by an art restorer.
The painting is being restored, the damage, according to the restoration expert of the State Tretyakov Gallery, can be eliminated without any long-term damage to the artwork.
Two visitors enjoying an art exhibition titled ‘The World as Non-Objectivity’. ‘Birth of New Art’ at the Yeltsin Center (pictured) spotted additional details of two of the three figures in the 1930s painting on December 7 last year, reports the Art Newspaper
The damage to the paint and the cost of the restoration was estimated at £2,470 (250,000 RUB). Protective screens have now been installed over the other paintings and works on display at the gallery.
It is not known how much the painting is worth, but it was insured with the insurance company Alfa for £740,000 (74.9 million rubles).
The artist Leporskaya, born in 1900 and died aged 82 in 1982, was a pupil of the famous Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich. She also worked with other avant-garde artists, including Nikolai Suetin and Lev Yudin.
She is primarily known as a master of artistic porcelain. Besides the Tretyakov Gallery, his works are widely represented in the collection of the Russian Museum.
The Yeltsin Center said in a statement on Tuesday: “We inform you that during the investigation the person who painted the eyes on the figures in the painting by Anna Leporskaya has been identified – this is an employee of a private security organization that performs security activities of the Yeltsin Center.
‘ Let us recall that on December 7, 2021, during the demonstration of the exhibition ‘ The world as non-objectivity. The Birth of a New Art” in the Art Gallery of the Yeltsin Center underwent a painting by Anna Leporskaya “Three Figures” (1932-1934) from the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery.
“The harm was done with a ballpoint pen.”
The Center added: “The work was inspected by the restorer of the State Tretyakov Gallery the next day and sent to Moscow. The painting is being restored, the damage, according to the expert, can be eliminated without consequences for the work of art.
“The Yeltsin Center refrained from commenting on this prosecution situation, as an internal investigation into the incident and interaction with law enforcement was ongoing.”