The identity of the ‘bored’ security guard who vandalised a £740,000 painting in Russia has been unmasked as a war hero decorated for military courage.
Alexander Vasiliev, 63, used a pen to doodle on the eyes on the blank faces of figures in Anna Leporskaya’s classic work Three Figures (1932-34), which was on display at Yekaterinburg’s Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre.
He admitted: ‘I’m a fool, for what I’ve done.’
Vasiliev, who could face prison after police opened an investigation for vandalism, told Yekaterinburg newspaper E1 that he had been egged on by schoolgirls visiting the abstract art exhibition.
‘To be honest, I didn’t really like these pictures [at the exhibition],’ he said.
Alexander Vasiliev (pictured), 63, used a pen to doodle on the eyes on the blank faces of figures in Anna Leporskaya’s classic work Three Figures (1932-34)
ORIGINAL: Artist Anna Leporskaya’s ‘Three Figures’ (1932–1934) painting
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 by without looking [at them].
‘I watched how people reacted, and then I saw teenagers, 16 or 17, standing and discussing why there are no eyes, no mouth, 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 the young people.
He continued: ‘I asked them: “Are these your works?” They replied: “Yes”.
‘They gave me a pen. I drew the eyes. I thought it was just their children’s drawings.’
‘I saw people passing by, smiling,’ he added.
Claiming that he didn’t know how much the painting was worth, he said: ‘If only I knew it wasn’t these kids’ pictures and the paintings were brought from Moscow and they cost so much.
‘What have I done?’
He claimed he asked to go home soon afterwards because his war wounds had begun to hurt.
In the Chechen War, the senior lieutenant’s body was riddled with bullets and he was not expected to survive.
In 1995, he was one of only four out of 36 soldiers in his detachment who survived a ferocious gun battle. He was subsequently honoured for courage.
Vasiliev (pictured), who could face prison after police opened an investigation for vandalism, told Yekaterinburg newspaper E1 that he had been egged on by schoolgirls
His wife Yulia, a Covid nurse, said he was a ‘normal man’ but he could be ‘naive like a child’.
She blamed his war wounds for his action.
But he has been criticised by the Interior Ministry for his ‘aggressive’ attitude during questioning.
‘He behaves quite aggressively, demonstrating that he does not like the whole process,’ said a source.
The war hero said: ‘I want everyone to leave me alone. I want to live peacefully with my wife.’
After the incident, the painting was removed from the exhibition and returned to the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, where it was on loan from.
Renovations costs have been put at £2,500 and it was reported that the company where Vasiliev worked is paying for the restoration.
Previous reports said Vasiliev has since been fired by the private security firm hired by the gallery.
Police have opened an investigation for vandalism, with comes with a £395 (74.9 million Russian Rubles) fine and a one-year correctional labour sentence.
Speaking to Russian website ura.ru, exhibition curator Anna Reshetkina said that it had been the guard’s first day on the job.
‘His motives are still unknown but the administration believes it was some kind of a lapse in sanity,’ she told the website.
She explained that the guard used a Yeltsin Center branded ballpoint pen to draw the eyes onto the painting, and penetrated a layer of paint.
According to The Art Newspaper Russia, luckily the damage did not too deep as the suspect did not apply strong enough pressure to the canvas.
Two visitors enjoying an art exhibition called ‘The World as Non-Objectivity. The Birth of a New Art’ at the Yeltsin Center spotted the extra details to two of the three figures on the 1930s painting on December 7 last year, reports the Art Newspaper.
The work was then sent to the Moscow gallery the next day and was inspected by an art restorer.
The painting is being restored, the damage, according to the restoration expert at State Tretyakov Gallery, can be eliminated without any long-term damage to the artwork.
Two visitors enjoying an art exhibition called ‘The World as Non-Objectivity. The Birth of a New Art’ at the Yeltsin Center (pictured) spotted the extra details to two of the three figures on the 1930s painting on December 7 last year, reports the Art Newspaper
The damage to the painting and cost of restoration has been estimated at £2,470 (RUB 250,000). Protective screens have now been installed over the other paintings and works on display at the gallery.
It is unclear how much the painting is worth, but it was insured with the Alfa insurance company for £740,000 (RUB 74.9 million).
Artist Leporskaya, who was born in 1900 and died aged 82 in 1982, was a student of the renowned, avant-garde Russian artist Kazimir Malevich. She also worked with other avant-garde artists, including Nikolai Suetin and Lev Yudin.
She is known primarily as a master of artistic porcelain. In addition to the Tretyakov Gallery, her works are widely represented in the collection of the Russian Museum.
The Yeltsin Center said in a statement released on Tuesday: ‘We inform you that during the investigation, the person who painted the eyes on the figures in the painting by Anna Leporskaya was identified – this is an employee of a private security organization that carries out security activities of the Yeltsin Center.
‘Recall that on December 7, 2021, during the demonstration of the exhibition ‘The World as Non-Objectiveness. The Birth of a New Art’ in the Art Gallery of the Yeltsin Center suffered a painting by Anna Leporskaya ‘Three Figures’ (1932–1934) from the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery.
‘The damage was done with a ballpoint pen.’
The Center added: ‘The work was inspected by the restorer of the State Tretyakov Gallery the very 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 situation in hot pursuit, as an internal investigation of the incident and interaction with law enforcement agencies were underway.’