A painting that depicts Russian atrocities in Ukraine has been damaged in Paris
The painting “Fuck Abstraction!” by Swiss artist Miriam Cahn was damaged in the Palais de Tokyo Museum in Paris, according to ArtNews. The painting depicts an act of violence: a male figure holding the head of a smaller figure with tied hands during oral sex. The author’s commentary on the work notes that it portrays human rights violations committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
On Sunday, May 7th, an unnamed elderly visitor sprayed purple paint on the painting. The man was apprehended by security and handed over to the police. Two museum rooms were closed after the act of vandalism. France’s Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul-Malak, called the incident “an attack on freedom of expression.”
L'imbécile chauffé à blanc par des démagogues, qui a vandalisé le tableau de Miriam Cahn au Palais de Tokyo, sera-t-il autant haï, lui et ses inspirateurs, que les écolos qui aspergent des murs de peinture, et n'attaquent sans les abimer que des œuvres protégées par des vitres? pic.twitter.com/yXRETvq8cy— claude askolovitch (@askolovitchC) May 8, 2023
The scandal around Kan’s painting erupted in March when it prompted sharp criticism from conservative audiences, who accused the artist of promoting pedophilia. A petition to remove the artwork from the exhibition was supported by 13,000 people, and the painting went viral on social media.
The artist explained that she painted the work in response to reports of mass burials in Bucha and the rape of Ukrainian women and children by Russians. According to her, the victim of violence in the painting is not a child. “The contrast between the two figures symbolizes the physical strength of the oppressor and the fragility of the oppressed, who are on their knees and exhausted from war,” Cahn said.
Eventually, a court came to the defense of the artist and the museum, allowing the painting to remain in the exhibition. The Palais de Tokyo announced that the work will be on display until the end of the exhibition on May 14. It has already been seen by 80,000 people.
In her work, Miriam Kan explores issues of feminism, sexual violence, racism, and anti-Semitism. Her works are held in the collections of leading museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, the Queen Sofia Arts Center in Madrid, and others.