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A South Korean Couple Accidentally Defaced A $500,000 Painting Thinking It Was Participatory Art Project

A couple in South Korea accidentally defaced a painting worth about US$500,000 in an art gallery in Seoul after they mistook it for a participatory art project.

On Sunday Mar. 28, gallery staff at Lotte World Mall discovered that the painting had been vandalized with dark green-colored marks and called the police, who accessed CCTV footage and saw the young couple using the brushes and acrylic paint to draw on the piece.

The 240cm by 700cm work, named “untitled”, was created by American graffiti artist JonOne and on display with the brushes, paint cans and shoes that he used when working on the painting in 2016.

There were guidelines and a notice, but the couple did not pay attention,” one of the organizers told the New York Times. Police then tracked down the couple at the mall and questioned them. The pair were released after organizers decided not to press charges, according to the BBC.

“They confessed that they thought they were allowed to do that (as participatory art) and made a mistake,” the exhibition head told Reuters.

“We are in discussion with the artist to decide what to do.” JonOne told the New York Times on Apr. 7 that he was angry and disappointed that his painting had been “defaced,” but he has since said he is fine with it in an interview with VICE World News. “With just three brush strokes on my canvas, they have managed to cause a planetary buzz?!? There is strength in that,” he said, adding that he “realized their misunderstanding by watching the video.”

Organizers have since installed a barrier in front of the work and additional signs saying “Do Not Touch.”

Organizers are also in discussions about whether to restore the painting, and say it’s unclear who would be liable for the cost of the repair, which is estimated to be about $9,000.

The news about “Untitled”, which is part of the “Street Noise” exhibition of about 130 artworks by international graffiti artists, has since gone viral in South Korea, and organizers say the incident has increased interest in the exhibition.

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