Danish artist Ibi-Pippi Orup Hedegaard was arrested on Friday in connection with the vandalism of a famous painting by Asger Jorn, one of the most famous Danish artists of the last century. Experts at the Jorn Museum in Silkeborg, Denmark, where the painting is permanently kept, are currently assessing the damage.
Vandalism began to circulate widely on social media on Sunday because some saw it as a right-wing protest. In statements following the incident, Ibi-Pippi, who goes by his first name, framed the act as if it was primarily about sparking debate over paternity.
The painting, The worrying duckling (1959), depicts a quiet country house with a giant duck towering over it. Jorn’s practice was regularly to appropriate ready-made images and use them as a canvas for his own creations. As with many of his paintings, Jorn acquired pastoral painting for Duckling then roughly painted the duck over it in garish tones. The word used by scholars to describe Jorn’s technique is “hijacking,” a central facet of the international left-wing Situationist movement, with which Jorn was affiliated.
Works such as The worrying duckling made Jorn the most famous artist of the CoBrA group, which sought to implode the divide between good and evil in artistic creation. The group was active between 1948 and 1951.
Ibi-Pippi claimed his act was a continuation of Jorn’s artistic concerns in a statement Friday posted on his Facebook. That day, Ibi-Pippi reportedly walked into the Jorn Museum, signed his name in permanent black marker, and put a picture of himself on the board. He was arrested shortly thereafter.
“If you’re around, you can check out my new work,” Ibi-Pippi wrote on Facebook.
The video that appeared to show Ibi-Pippi pasting a picture of himself on Jorn’s board was broadcast live on Facebook by Patrioterne Går Live, a right-wing page that has previously published videos and texts advocating a “non-Muslim” Denmark. According to Danish publication DRartist Uwe Max Jensen, who sparked controversy for play in blackface and who posted his right-wing views on social media, can be seen in the video Patriot Går Live taking photos of the wall vandalism and text, then walking out of the museum with Ibi-Pippi.
Jensen posted several posts about the Ibi-Pippi vandalism on Facebook over the weekend. In Publishhe compared the act to artist Katrine Dirckinck-Holmfeld’s recent dumping of a bust of an 18th-century Danish king into a river, in what she called a anti-colonial protest.
Jacob Thage, director of the Jorn Museum, said DR Friday that the institution was working to restore The worrying duckling. He said at the time that it was “too early to say” if the painting could be salvaged because the glue used by Ibi-Pippi is “very difficult to remove”.
A museum spokesperson did not immediately respond to a ART news request for comment.
Following an interrogation conducted after his arrest, Ibi-Pippi was released. A local police duty officer said DR that the matter was being treated as a criminal matter and that an investigation was ongoing.
In a interview With the TV2 Østylland network on Sunday, Ibi-Pippi appeared to say he didn’t want his vandalism to have potentially long-term consequences. He claimed that he chose the wrong tube of glue to glue his own portrait onto Jorn’s painting.
“I am sincerely sorry that the work was mutilated to such an extent,” he said. “That wasn’t really my intention.”