“Bored” security guard draws eyes on faceless Russian painting on his first day

The valuable abstract work, Anna Leporskaya’s Three Figures, was vandalised using a gallery-branded ballpoint pen.

10 February 2022

Anna Leporskaya’s Three Figures, a painting on display at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center, has been vandalised by a security worker, who scribbled small eyes on two of the figures with a ballpoint pen. In what is possibly one of the worst first-day-on-the-job horror stories in recent history, the security guard had apparently worked at the gallery for less than 24 hours before he drew on the painting; Three Figures is insured for approximately £740,000.

In a statement, the exhibition’s curator, Anna Reshetkina, states the damage occurred “with a Yeltsin Center-branded pen”. Anna continues: “His motives are still unknown but the administration believes it was some kind of a lapse in sanity.” The painting was on loan from the collection of State Tretyakov Gallery, provided for the exhibition The World as Non-Objectivity. The Birth of a New Art.

As reported in the initial story on the vandalism by Ivan Petrov in The Art Newspaper Russia, the “improvement” of the painting was noticed by two visitors to the exhibition in December, who informed a gallery employee. Three Figures, which was painted between 1932 and 1934, was returned to State Tretyakov Gallery and has since been sent for restoration.

Luckily, explains Ivan Petrov in the story: “The vandal drew with a pen without strong pressure, and therefore the relief of the strokes as a whole was not disturbed.” “The ink has slightly penetrated into the paint layer, since the titanium white used to paint the faces is not covered with author’s varnish, as is often the case in abstract painting of that time.” The centre has since installed protective screens on all remaining works in the exhibition and the police have announced an investigation into the vandalism.

The adding of a face to Anna Leporskaya’s Three Figures still manages to pale in comparison to some unintentional defacements of classic works, including Cecilia Giménez’s infamous restoration gone wrong of Ecco Homo (Behold The Man) by Elías García Martínez, otherwise known as “Monkey Christ”.

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(Copyright © The Art Newspaper Russia/ Yeltsin Center, 2021)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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