An appeals judge in Russia has overturned the guilty verdict of a security guard, who used a saucepan to “repair” a painting by a student of avant-garde master Kazimir Malevich.
The actions of Aleksandr Vasilyev, who altered a work displayed in the gallery he was guarding, did not constitute a crime, a judge in Yekaterinburg said, according to a TASS report from the courthouse on Friday.
The ruling overturned the 180-hour sentence of community service and court-mandated treatment in the psychiatric ward, which were part of Vasilyev’s original sentence handed down in late August by a magistrate judge in the same court.
The new ruling said the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to vandalize the artwork. He also agreed with an expert witness, who argued that adding eyes to faceless figures in the painting did not constitute its disfigurement and therefore did not constitute vandalism.
The incident happened in late 2021 at the Yeltsin Center museum in Yekaterinburg, which offered Vasilyev, who is in his 60s, the job of security guard. He was exhibiting the 1930s painting “Three Figures” by Anna Leporskaya, which he had borrowed from the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
At the first trial, Vasilyev claimed he thought the room was child’s labor of little value when he took a ballpoint pen from it. The owner put a price tag of 75 million rubles ($1.24 million) on it and said it cost 250,000 rubles ($4,130) to restore, which was paid for by an insurance company.
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