The security guard who allegedly drew eyes on a GBP-731,000 painting claims some teenage girls gave him a pen, claimed the work of art was theirs, and asked him to add eyes to its blank faces.
Alexander Vasiliev, 63, believing that the painting was a “childhood drawing”of theirs, said he obliged.
The painting, which was created by Anna Leporskaya, a student of Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich, was defaced at the Yeltsin Centre, which is located in the city of Yekaterinburg in the Sverdlovsk Oblast region in west-central Russia.
The incident reportedly took place on 7th December 2021, when the security guard on his first day on the job allegedly drew eyes with a ballpoint pen on the faces of two of the three figures depicted in the painting.
The painting, called ‘Three Figures’ (1932-1934) from the Tretyakov Gallery collection, is currently being worked on by experts in a bid to restore it to its former glory. It was damaged during an exhibition called ‘The World as Non-Objectivity. The Birth of a New Art’.
Vasiliev is reportedly a decorated war hero who fought in Chechnya and Afghanistan, earning him numerous medals, but his service to his country also resulted in him being seriously wounded in an incident in Afghanistan in which only four out of 36 people in his detachment survived.
His body was reportedly riddled with bullets, but he somehow survived and was discharged from the army due to disability in 1995 at the age of 37.
He worked for years in various security companies and until recently worked at a bank as a security guard until the branch was closed down.
Vasiliev’s first wife died a few years ago (exact date unknown) and his only son, Sasha, was stabbed to death in the street in 2014. The killer was reportedly jailed for 10 years and ordered to pay compensation to the tune of RUB 10 million (GBP 97,700), but he reportedly never paid up.
He met his second wife three years ago while in hospital. She is a doctor and they have been together ever since.
Acquaintances at a veterans’ organisation reportedly helped him to get a job as a security guard at the Yeltsin Centre.
But he suffers from severe leg injuries and reportedly said: “At first, I wanted to refuse, I was afraid that I would not be able to be on my feet all day, without the opportunity to sit down.”
He added: “But they told me: if you work one shift, we will pay you right away. I did it. To be honest, I didn’t really like these works.
“They left a deep impression. I tried to pass by without looking. I watched how people reacted, and then I saw them: children aged around 16 or 17 years old standing and discussing why there were no eyes, no mouth, no beauty!
“There were girls in the room, and they asked me: ‘Draw eyes, you work here.’ I asked them: ‘Are these your works?’ Them: ‘Yes.’ They gave me a pen. I drew the eyes. I thought they were just their childhood drawings!”
Vasiliev said that he went home a short while later, telling the shift supervisor that he had a headache.
He thought nothing of the incident and was even surprised when the police came to see him a few days later.
He even suggested they bring in the painting so that he could “erase everything so that it’s not visible”.
He was questioned by the police and it emerged that the teenagers who allegedly incited him to vandalise the painting were not caught on the security cameras.
The security guard said: “I would never touch other people’s paintings without permission. Why ruin someone else’s work? If only I had known it wasn’t those girls’ work! That the paintings were brought from Moscow and they cost so much!.. What have I done!”
His second wife Yulia reportedly said that Vasiliev is “naive like a child” when it comes to “some things”. She said that he was “an absolutely normal person in everyday life”, but that he also suffers from “the consequences of a concussion”. She said that there were also many other people from his generation who she said had lost their health and been cast aside by society.
And now the decorated war hero wishes only one thing, and that is for his mistake to be forgotten about.
He said: “I want everyone to leave me alone, and I would live peacefully as I lived with my wife.”
But it is still currently unclear what will happen to Vasiliev, who has been charged with vandalism and who will have to answer for his gaffe.
After the incident, the police opened an investigation for vandalism, which comes with a RUB-40,000 (GBP-391) fine and a one-year correctional labour sentence.
Anna Leporskaya (1900-1982) was a student of the renowned, avant-garde Russian artist Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935). She also worked with other avant-garde artists, including Nikolai Suetin and Lev Yudin.
She is known primarily as a master of artistic porcelain. In addition to the Tretyakov Gallery, her works are widely represented in the collection of the Russian Museum.
The damage to the painting, which is reportedly worth RUB 74.9 million (GBP 731,000), has been estimated at RUB 250,000 (GBP 2,440). It has been reported that the painting was insured with the Alfa insurance company and that it would be the company that would be paying for its restoration.