A Houston art gallery has raised the ire of the local art community by staging a show of works by a 22-year-old whos been on the lam since being charged with spray-painting a Pablo Picasso painting.
Despite the uproar, Cueto James Art Gallery owner James Perez expects a full house for todays opening of 12 works by Uriel Landeros.
It made me happy that someone could evoke this kind of emotion in people, Perez said.
Landeros was charged with felony graffiti and felony criminal mischief for allegedly defacing Woman in a Red Armchair at Houstons Menil Collection on June 13. A video posted on YouTube showed a man holding a stencil up to the work of art and spray-painting it, leaving behind an image of a bullfighter, a bull and the word conquista, Spanish for conquest.
Perez, who said he was interested in Landeros work before the vandalism charge, said he found the act inspiring.
Its just taking something and making it your own. I like what Uriel did. That it makes it yours, Perez said.
But the contention that the stencil was itself art has especially angered people in the Houston arts community.
You dont destroy someone elses artwork and call that art, said artist Mitch Cohen, an arts promoter and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market. Ive never seen such a backlash against a show.
Kristen Kramlich, who creates jewelry and sculptures, said, Its all about the sensationalism and thats what (Landeros is) riding on and thats what the gallery is riding on.
Perez denied the show is meant to draw attention to himself, saying, Im already popular. This is for Uriel.
Art community members also say its galling to see so much attention being paid to this show when local gallery shows usually escape widespread notice.
The greatest gallery exhibit in history would not get this publicity, said Houston art blogger Robert Boyd, who said hed not heard of Landeros before the vandalism charge.
Andree Bober, director of Landmarks, a public art program at the University of Texas at Austin, said this vandalism incident isnt unique.
Its not a new statement. Its a derivative one, she said.
Earlier this month, a vandal scrawled graffiti on a mural by modern American master Mark Rothko at Londons Tate Modern.
Perez said the fugitive artist will speak with attendees via Skype at Fridays gallery opening, but that Landeros would not speak with the media until then.
Perez said that he expects 200-300 people to stream through his 3,000-square-foot gallery Friday night to see paintings that he deems revolutionary in subject matter. One painting is of a half-skeletal person.
Landeros, who Perez says is in Mexico, posted a video on YouTube in August in which he explains that he didnt intend to destroy Pablos painting or to insult the Menil. He said if he wanted to destroy it, he would have slashed it with a knife or burnt it. Landeros also claimed the Picasso could be restored with a little bit of Windex.
Menil spokeswoman Gretchen Sammons said the institution had no comment on the show. She said restoration is still underway on the piece and they expect a full recovery.
Donna Hawkins, a Harris County assistant district attorney, said Landeros faces two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.