Eric Mezil, curator to Collection Lambert gallery in Avignon, France, is seriously (and justifiably) pissed—but also, apparently, a bit prone to hyperbole. Last Thursday, Mezil says, a Cambodian-born Frenchwoman named Sam Rindy “raped” one of the masterpieces in his care, an untitled painting by American artist Cy Twomby worth 2.8 million dollars. The gallery-goer’s crime? She kissed the pure-white canvas of the painting, leaving a prominent lipstick imprint. The choleric curator fumed to French news agency AFP: “This is vandalism, a rape, she has no idea what she has done." Mezil repeated his weirdly inappropriate metaphor, adding, "She talks about love, but this is rape. She needs to understand what an artist's intellectual property means." The painting has since been removed and taken to an expert for assessment, but Mezil holds little hope for its restoration, lamenting, “Lipstick contains fat and chemicals and red is the most violent color: this red is indelible."
Rindy was escorted from the gallery by police and charged with committing criminal damage. The thirty-year-old woman, who is herself an artist, offered a lofty (if kooky) explanation for her behavior: she was so overcome by the painting’s power that she was simply compelled to plant a smooch upon it. “The artist left this white for me,” Rindy told an AFP reporter. “I left a kiss,” she elaborated further for La Provence newspaper after leaving the police station. "A red stain remained on the canvas ... This red stain is testimony to this moment, to the power of art." Rindy avows that after her encounter with the painting, she found the work “even more beautiful.”
We’re not out to excuse vandalism, but a look at some of the other paintings featured in the exhibit (entitled “Cy Twombly Blooming – A Scattering of Blossoms and other Things") almost makes us wonder whether Twomby was asking for it.