A Couple Accidentally Defaced a $500,000 Painting in a Seoul Mall After Mistaking It for a Participatory Artwork

A couple attending a street art exhibition in a shopping mall in Seoul unknowingly destroyed a $ 500,000 abstract painting by American artist JonOne and painted three large dark spots on its surface.

The couple were puzzled by the row of brushes and tubes of paint that were strewn on the floor under the canvas. They were supposed to reflect the artist’s creative process, but the ignorant couple mistook the display for an invitation to add to the work.

“They thought they were allowed to do this as participatory art and they made a mistake,” Kang Wook, CEO of Contents Creator of Culture, co-organizer of the exhibition, told Reuters. “We are currently in discussions with the artist about whether it should be restored.”

A CCTV camera captured the young couple applying paint to the piece currently on display in Street Noise, an exhibition at P / O / S / T, a gallery on Lotte Street Mall in Seoul.

Police at the mall took the couple into custody half an hour after the incident. The gallery chose not to bring charges because it was an honest mistake.

JonOne, born John Andrew Perello, is a street artist best known for his Abstract Expressionism style graffiti. He painted the untitled piece, which measures almost 23 by 9 feet, in front of a live audience at a graffiti art exhibition, “The Great Graffiti” at the Seoul Arts Center in 2016.

The art objects scattered at the base of the work are said to be the same paints and brushes that he used to complete the work and are considered part of the piece.

According to the Artnet Price Database, the artist’s auction record at Artcurial in Paris for a painted car with the title Rolls Royce modèle Corniche was € 160,900 in 2013.

US graffiti artist JonOne (John Andrew Perello). Photo by Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP via Getty Images.

The artist didn’t respond to a request for comment, but the gallery told the Korea Times that the couple may have to reimburse him for the restoration costs.

The destroyed work of art can still be seen – but with an additional wire lock and a new sign that warns the viewer: “Do not touch”.

“Street Noise” can be seen from February 26 to June 13, 2021 in P / O / S / T, Lotte World Mall, B1, 300 Olympic-Ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul.

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