2006-01-07

Intolerance: Museum Artwork Attacked Again

An 'art activist' pensioner has been arrested after attacking Marcel Duchamp's celebrated white porcelain urinal with a hammer while the object, recently voted the most influential modern artwork of all time, was on display as part of an exhibition on 'Dadaism' at 'The Pompidou Centre' in Paris. Following the arrest of Mr.Pierre Pinoncelli, 77, it emerged that it was the second time he has attacked Duchamp's urinal, called 'Fountain', which is valued at 2_million_GBP. In 1993 he urinated in it while it was exhibited at 'The Carré d'Art' in the southern city of Nimes. The urinal, which dates from 1917, came top of a poll by 500 art experts in the run-up to the 2004 Turner Prize, beating Picasso's 'Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon (1907)' and Andy Warhol's 'Marilyn Diptych (1962)'. Mr.Pinoncelli, from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in southern France, attacked the urinal with a hammer on Wednesday between 11:30 and 12:00 while the exhibition was open to the public. He was intercepted by security guards, who handed him over to police. Museum staff said the artwork had been slightly chipped during the attack.
'The damage is not irreparable,' said a spokesman for 'The Pompidou Centre'.
After his first attack on the urinal, Mr.Pinoncelli said he had
'given dignity back to the object, a victim of a distortion of its use, even its personality'.
Following his second assault on the toilet, he explained that he felt it was now necessary to smash the urinal.
'Having just become a simple object for pissing after having been the most famous object in the history of art, its existence was broken, it was going to have a miserable existence. 'Better to put an end to it with a few blows from a hammer. 'Not at all the action of a vandal, more of a charitable act,' he said.
Mr.Pinoncelli has a long history of similar actions -- claiming to have carried out more than 70 since 1963. In 1969 he was credited with 'a cultural attack against Malraux' when, armed with a water pistol, he sprayed Mr.André Malraux, the then French culture minister, with red paint at the opening of 'The Chagall Museum' in Nice. In 2002-06 in a museum in Colombia he cut off his finger with an axe to protest against FARC guerrillas who had taken hostage Ms.Ingrid Bettancourt, a presidential candidate. As Mr.Pinoncelli is a repeat offender, he was still being held yesterday and is expected to be charged. The urinal has been withdrawn for restoration. The exhibition, which has already received 350_000 visitors, is due to close on Monday. Duchamp shocked the art establishment when he took the urinal, signed it 'R. Mutt' -- a pun on the German word for poverty, 'armut' -- and submitted it to a New York exhibition by 'The Society of Independent Artists' in 1917, where it was rejected for 'not being art'. It illustrates his intention to transform everyday objects into works of art through the simple will of the artist to do so. Duchamp, who died in 1968, is considered the spiritual father of today's postmodern conceptual artists. 'Vandal takes hammer to £2m toilet', Susan Bell, The Scotsman, 2006-01-07, Sa

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