Painting defaced at Carnegie was a loaner
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A $1.2 million painting defaced by a security guard at the Carnegie Museum of Art last month was on loan from a Chicago museum.
A police affidavit detailing the arrest of the guard, Timur Serebrykov, identified the painting as one from the Carnegie's permanent collection. But museum officials yesterday confirmed that the piece -- Vija Celmins' "Night Sky #2" -- was the property of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Mr. Serebrykov, 27, of Greenfield, has been accused of using a key to slash the painting. The Carnegie's chief conservator told police that it had been damaged beyond repair, and Mr. Serebrykov was charged with institutional vandalism.
"We just got the painting back and it is under examination," said Erin Hogan, director of public affairs at the Chicago museum.
The museum's conservation experts are hoping to salvage the painting.
It was on loan to the Carnegie Museum of Art as part of the 2008 Carnegie International exhibit, one of eight works by Ms. Celmins depicting the night sky.
A Latvian immigrant, she is prominent in the art world and now lives in New York City. She won the International's $10,000 Carnegie Prize. Efforts to reach her yesterday were unsuccessful.
Carnegie officials are declining to discuss the incident publicly, citing fears of copycat vandalism.
"It's a rare and unfortunate occurrence," Chicago's Ms. Hogan said. "I think everyone here feels that it was unfortunate and we're going to see what we can do."
Mr. Serebrykov worked for Capital Asset Protection, a Neville Island-based security contractor. A surveillance camera caught him in the act of defacing the painting on May 16, according to the police affidavit.
When police arrested him four days later, he told them he didn't like the painting.
Mr. Serebrykov is a U.S. legal resident from the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan, said his lawyer, James Sheets.
Latvia, Ms. Celmins' home country, is also a part of the former Soviet Union. Mr. Sheets said that was just a coincidence.
"This was not in any way politically motivated," he said.
He said his client has been trying to contact Ms. Celmins to apologize.
Mr. Serebrykov, who has a pregnant fiancee, is under the care of a psychologist, and he likely will cite his mental health as a legal defense.
He faces a formal arraignment on July 29.
"He is a polite, cordial young man who is looking forward to being a father," Mr. Sheets said. "He is very remorseful and he wants to let the artist know this was nothing personal."
First Published June 7, 2008 12:00 am