Musings on the Rothko/Tate ‘vandalism’ and ‘yellowism’

The recent incident in the Tate gallery is even more surreal than it first appears.

Vladimir Umanets signed a Mark Rothko painting by writing on it the words “Vladimir Umanets, A Potential Piece of Yellowism”.

So what exactly is Yellowism? Their manifesto isn’t much help

His explanation for his actions is- “Some people think I’m crazy or a vandal, but my intention was not to destroy or decrease the value,” he said. “I am not a vandal. I am a Yellowist. I believe what I am doing and I want people to start talking about this. It was like a platform.

“I don’t need to be famous, I don’t want money, I don’t want fame, I’m not seeking attention. Maybe I would like to point people’s attention on what it’s all about — what is Yellowism, what is art?”

The painting in question was one of a series intended for the restaurant in the newly built Seagram Building in New York.

After a visit to Europe, “Rothko and wife Mell visited the near-completed Four Seasons restaurant. Upset with the restaurant’s dining atmosphere, which he considered pretentious and inappropriate for the display of his works, Rothko immediately refused to continue the project, and returned the commission cash advance to the Seagram and Sons Company.

Seagram had intended to honor Rothko’s emergence to prominence through his selection, and his breach of contract and public expression of outrage were unexpected.”

I think Rothko was correct to cancel the comission. This new restaurant was going to be the place for the glitterati to be seen.

The Seagrams chose Rothko because he was the bright new star of the art world and they wanted some expensive wallpaper to provide a background for the diners, not to look at, but for them to feel the reflected glow of ‘genius’ and feel reassured that they were important enough to be allowed to dine there.

According to Rothko himself, his true intention for the Seagram murals was to paint “something that will ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch who ever eats in that room. If the restaurant would refuse to put up my murals, that would be the ultimate compliment. But they won’t. People can stand anything these days.”

Rothko was Russian as is Umanets. Could there be something in the Russian psyche that would explain all this? No doubt our resident Russophile will be able to provide a clue.

Curiouser and curiouser.

The painting in the Tate was a gift of the artist and, as such, didn’t cost them anything.
Umanets has now been arrested for defacing a picture which all press reports are saying is worth “tens of millions of pounds”

But is it worth that? The Tate did not pay for it. They have no intention of selling it (as far as I know) and so it has zero monetary value. Why do the press insist on putting a price tag on it?

I would like to think, given all of the above, that Rothko himself, sitting somewhere in the great beyond, is laughing at this whole farce and probably approves of the actions of Umanets.

So, back to the question: what is Yellowism? Well, this video from ThisIsYellowism, complete with nine Russian Supermodels, might help.

This brings us neatly to a recent, albeit unintentional, example of Yellowism. The famous botched restoration of a church fresco by Cecilia Giménez in Borja, near Zaragoza in Spain.

The church is now charging admission fees to allow the sheep, who have travelled from afar, to gawp at something they have been told is a ‘work of art’

Michael O’Gobshite gets in on the act by supplying a fleet of flying charabancs to transport the sheep to gawp at they know not what.

Cecilia Giménez is now claiming that she deserves ‘royalties’ for her work claiming that the church and others are making money out of this but she is not.

Giménez’s lawyers now reportedly say that while she demands no cut of the entrance charges, they are investigating possible copyright infringements of her creation which has already appeared on T-shirts, wine labels and elsewhere.

The art world is completely insane and has become the playground of lunatics and charlatans and hucksters….. and that is even before we get to the annual silliness that is the Turner Prize, coming up next month.

I think we need a Francis Fukuyama to write a book about the end of Art.

Robert Hughes began the task with his TV series and book The Shock Of The New but, sadly, he is no longer with us and the likes of David Lee and Brian Sewell are ignored – voices crying in the wilderness.

I would write it myself but I am not a wordsmith and I am far too busy in my studio churning out my own mini-masterpieces of Yellowism 🙂

7 comments for “Musings on the Rothko/Tate ‘vandalism’ and ‘yellowism’

  1. wiggiatlarge
    October 12, 2012 at 11:10

    I think JD the price put upon the Rothko piece is that it would likely fetch if ever sold, the facts as to its provenance are of no interest to the press who like always to display a price whatever the circumstances, as in “man arrested for fly tipping here seen leaving his 800.000 pound house” ?
    The last paragraphs of yours remind me that I managed to find and download ‘The Shock of the New’ and have watched the first couple of episodes, it is still a “tour de force ” all these years on.

  2. October 12, 2012 at 12:17

    JD – in Russia, where these two come from, the “yellow press” used to be printed on yellow paper and was the scurrilous, tabloidy type news you could perhaps smile at for its sensationalism and even enjoy it for that but it had no journalistic merit.

    Hence yellowism.

    Wiggia – we’ve run Shock of the New before, by the way:

    Suppose I’m at odds with my fellow males in that I can admire a curve as well as the next man but I’d prefer it to be on one woman, not a line of clones, which distracts from the whole point – it’s the way she moves and speaks which adds or detracts from the cardboard cutout. I prefer a human being, with all her foibles, on a one-on-one basis.

    So those girls in the clip might be Ok individually but en masse, are surplus to requirements. In Russia, I worked in a building with 900 girls and most of those one met on the stairs going up as they went down but even there, it was the combination of differences which was the attraction, not the sameness.

  3. Sniper
    October 12, 2012 at 19:34


  4. JD
    October 13, 2012 at 15:58
  5. JD
    October 14, 2012 at 11:22

    Don’t worry folks, the Huffington Post are on the case-
    but they are slow on the uptake and are very po faced about the whole thing.

    Just imagine that what Umanets was doing had been done by a ‘celebrity’ artist, what do you suppose the reaction might have been?
    It would have been something like this-
    and the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones demonstrates that he is a blithering idiot like all the others in the ‘inner circle’ of self regarding luvvies who are brainwashed into thinking post-modern ‘art’ is meaningfully profound.

    HP refers to all the Yellowism stuff on YouTube and elsewhere without realising that everything they have produced has already been done by ‘artists’ whose reputations are firmly established and done to great critical acclaim. But because it has been done by unknowns under the label of Yellowism the media in general doesn’t know how to react because they haven’t yet been told what to think and what the ‘correct’ response should be.
    Sigh 🙁

    So for all those who have had their critical faculties attenuated and their ability to think dulled by the relentless trivia gushing forth from the media……..
    What else is yellow……. and is liquid…..and is the subject of extraction for the purposes of ironic commentary?

    See my comments about Salvador Dalí at-
    …he was doing exactly the same thing.

  6. October 14, 2012 at 11:27

    Thanks for that, JD. A bit committed during the day but I plan to go back through all this this evening at more leisure.

  7. Sniper
    October 14, 2012 at 13:26


    I know. But sometimes you just have to let it out.

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