Rumors and allegations are flying this week as the Houston Police Department continues its investigation into last Wednesday's attack on Woman in a Red Armchair — a 1929 Picasso painting at the Menil Collection that was tagged with a spray-painted stencil of a bull and bullfighter along with the word "conquista."
After KPRC Channel 2 first reported the incident Sunday evening, a 24-second eyewitness video of the vandalism has racked up more the 100,000 hits on YouTube. Uriel Landeros, the stencil-artist whose name is posted on the video as the alleged tagger but who has not been charged with a crime, appears to feel little need to keep a low profile and has even posted the KPRC story on his Facebook page.
The witness showed CultureMap a typed version of the vandal's original statement.
According to a Monday afternoon email circulated among faculty and staff at the University of Houston, a student from the university has been linked to the crime. HPD's ongoing investigation as well as federal privacy laws prevent UH officials from commenting at this time.
On Tuesday, CultureMap spoke with the cameraman who shot the eyewitness video. He stressed that he had nothing to do with the attack, in spite of what several news articles had suggested. After shooting the video and immediately posting it on YouTube, the eyewitness said he unexpectedly bumped into the tagger-artist several days later and asked him about the incident. The vandal gave him a hand-written letter detailing his artistic motivations.
The witness showed CultureMap a typed version of the vandal's original statement, which read:
I dedicate this to all the people out there who have suffered for any injustice of every kind. To those abused by their loved ones. For those abused by their government. For those who were abused by organized religion. And to Picasso from artist to artist. The beast is meant to be conquered. Picasso loved bullfighting because he knew at the end of the dance, someone had to die and on the day it was his turn."
The Menil Collection expects the painting to be fully restored and has since released an official statement from museum director Josef Helfenstein.
"We are shocked and saddened by this unfortunate incident," he says. "It threatened the public’s ability to enjoy a wonderful painting and violated the bonds of trust that enable museums to share great works with their visitors. We are cooperating fully with the Houston Police Department in its efforts to bring the perpetrator or perpetrators to justice."
UPDATE: Click here to read The Menil Picasso vandal plot thickens: Police seek suspect; Crime Stoppers offers reward