Rothko Mural Vandal Says He Made It More Valuable

A man who claims he defaced a mural by Mark Rothko in London's Tate Modern museum told ABC News today that by scrawling his name on the artwork with a black marker he has made it more valuable.

The mural, one of Rothko's Seagram series, was marred Sunday when someone wrote "Vladimir Umanets 12" and "a potential piece of yellowism" in drippy black ink. The museum was closed temporarily on Sunday and police are investigating, museum spokeswoman Jeanette Ward said.

In a conversation that switched at times from English to Russian to Polish, the man who claimed to be Umanets said, "I am not a vandal or some frustrated man. I did not destroy this picture. I did not steal anything."

"I really believe that eventually, this canvas, with my signature will have a higher value than Rothko's other paintings. Not immediately, but in several years," he said.

Umanets said that he chose the Rothko work after considering defacing others by Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Marcel Duchamp.

"I went into the Tate with a permanent black marker to inscribe a painting that I personally like the most. After looking at all of his painting, I realized I like 'Black on Maroon' the best," he said.

He said no tried to stop him.

"I did it in front of many visitors. Then I put the lid on the marker, looked at the painting again, and normally left the room. There was security and videocameras. I was surprised no attendants stopped me from leaving," Umanets told ABC News.

London police are searching for whoever attacked the mural, and Umanets said that he is aware that he could be arrested.

"I know what the legal consequences are, but I do not think I committed a crime. On the contrary, I would not like to end up in jail," he said.

Umanets and a person named Marcin Lodyga has advocated a visual movement called "yellowism," which he described by saying, "Yellowism is neither art nor anti-art. It is a resignation of art."

"I did not do this to become rich or famous. I did it because of yellowism," he said. "I would love it to become a part of yellowism."

ABC News contacted Umanets through a web page thisisyellowism.com. A phone number on the site has since been taken down. During the interview Umanets declined to give his age, nationality or his location.

In 1958, the Seagram company commissioned Rothko to paint murals for a room in the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram building in Manhattan. However, after he completed the paintings, Rothko changed his mind about displaying them, reportedly because of the presence of only wealthy and privileged diners. He withdrew the paintings and returned his commission money.

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