A young couple damaged a $500,000 piece of art on display in South Korea last month after they mistook some nearby cans and brushes as an invitation to smear paint on the artwork.
CCTV footage captured the moment when the man and woman started splattering paint on the graffiti on March 28 at the Lotte World Mall in Seoul. Exhibition staff say the couple daubed, splattered and rubbed the paint on the display, causing extensive damage to the wall-sized piece of art.
“They thought they were allowed to do that as participatory art and made a mistake,” Kang Wook, who runs the exhibition, told Reuters.
The piece was a valuable work of art by U.S. graffiti artist JonOne, who made it in front of a live audience in Seoul in 2016. The artwork was later turned into a display with paint cans and brushes arranged nearby wherever it’s shown.
Police reviewed the CCTV footage and arrested the couple shortly after they defaced the graffiti. They were later released without charges after the gallery accepted their explanation that it was an honest mistake.
“We are currently in discussions with the artist about whether to restore it,” Kang said.
The gallery has since added a sign to the display that reads: “Do not touch.”
It’s not the first time a careless gallery visitor has damaged a piece of art on camera. In 2015, a schoolboy in Taiwan accidentally tripped and punched a hole through a $1.5-million painting that he used to break his fall.
—With files from Reuters