Police unsure if woman urinated on $30m abstract expressionist painting

A Denver woman allegedly caused $10,000 worth of damage to Clyfford Still's 1957-J no.2, punching and scratching the abstract expressionist painting. Police remain unsure, however, whether she succeeded in an attempt to urinate upon the masterpiece, valued at $30m.

Carmen Tische, 36, of Denver, Co., who was charged with felony criminal mischief, "rubbed her buttocks against it while urinating", according to police spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough. Kimbrough added, however, that there's no evidence that urine damaged the painting, so they have not charged her with that. [Reuters]


  1. How foul and disrespectful of the art.  Moreover, shouldn’t a criminal start small and build?  She should start with some sidewalk urination, then move on to subway platforms, etc.  This was too ambitious.

      1. Any word on if Ms.Tische has issued an “artist’s mission statement”? 

        ‘Cuz I’d like to read that.

  2. Did anyone ask her if this was engaged in a performance art piece?  

    I’d think since the painting is still fine this sort of story may add value to the piece.  Or this at least draw attention to the work.

    1. Did anyone ask her if this was engaged in a performance art piece?

      You mean a performance art piss?

  3. This. This is why my fellow museum curators and I put sh!t behind plexi. We don’t want to have to clean up after you barbarians! 

  4. How stupid. The one that needed to be topped off was Piss Christ, exhibited in the other wing of the museum.

    Proposed headline: “Painting so abstract, experts can’t tell if it has been pissed on or supposed to look that way.”

  5. While the suspect’s chosen technique is technically valid, her execution was, dare I say, somewhat amateurish and rather derivative of true masters of contemporary excretory art such as G.G. Allin or Divine.

    1. So then, as you opine it is a middling effort, would you say it should not be considered representative of the  greater excretory movement? Perhaps even as a counterpoint it’s less-fluid, fecal digressions?

  6. Didn’t Jacson Pollock urinate on his canvases? If that is an urban legend, we can at least say that he was often pissed off while painting.

    1. If memory serves, it was Andy Warhol, although he combined urine with paint and then applied it to the canvas.  Anyway, they’re referred to as “The Piss Paintings”.

  7. After half a century of being static and stuck in 1957, Mr Still’s painting came back to life, however briefly, in 2012!

    In a church in Celaya, Guanajuato, there is a mural from the 1820’s by the artist Eugenio Tres Guerras, depicting the last judgement.  I had the excellent luck of visiting while it was being restored.

    For almost two centuries, the faithful have taken their small knives and carved prayers and petitions, exposing white plaster just underneath the surface layer of paint.

    The restorers decided to painstakingly paint over the carvings with slightly lighter hues, so that from a distance one can appreciate the overall artwork, while on closer inspection one can read the ‘graffiti’ that has accumulated over time, considered as part of the mural itself, a work in progress! A brilliant approach to a potentially complex problem.

  8. How do you even punish some crazy lady that pisses on $30m?  If she STOLE $30m she’d likely go to prison forever… how is this seen from the legal perspective?  I’m intrigued.

    Sure the painting will be insured (against pissing?  Probably I guess) but then so is a banks money; but I’m guessing the punishment isn’t the same as if she’d robbed a bank.  This unusual story has prompted quit the legal conundrum (for me any way).  Would be interesting to hear from the great minds of BoingBoing what the differences in punishment are and what the root justification for the difference is. As to me, damaging value is worse than taking it, as it can’t be recovered.

    1. Who’s to say that the painting’s real, intrinsic value is $30m, while works of many other painters of the era or before, run for mere thousands?

      While I do love his work, Mr Still’s output was around 2,400 paintings, so it’s not as if there’s a shortage of his work.  Even while alive he only sold about 150 of his paintings.

      Tagged in his era as one of The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, along with Pollock, De Kooning and Rothko, maybe that edgy title and fantastic publicity catapulted Still and the other guys into a whole other level of investment, market value, although not in their lifetimes; they did quite nicely in their later years, but nothing along the lines of $30m.

      My point being, financial speculation of this sort is a nasty thing.  The whole Sotheby’s dynamic; values supposedly never dropping, always rising (unlike real estate); values upticking when the artist dies; mobilizing lawyers when a jpg shows up on the internet (diminishing its’ “exclusivity”).  All this bullshit has NOTHING to do with the art itself.

      1. Four Clyfford Still paintings went were sold at auction in November of this year for $114.1 million. They were considered by art experts to be worth less than the one that was damaged. Market value is pretty easy sometimes.

    2. “charged with felony criminal mischief” which when I look up Colorado law, something worth even 1000$ is enough to kick it into Felony categories, so arguing whether it’s worth millions or “just” thousands doesn’t seem to be relevant here :)

  9. Wow.  She must have REALLY LOATHED that painting.  Or really LOVED it.

    I now have a new life goal: to create art so compelling that random lunatics are moved to rub their bodies (and bodily fluids) all over it.  Suck on that, Jeff Koons.

    1. On the more sublime side, Mark Rothko’s paintings are know for making people burst into tears.  A friend of mine witnessed this at the NY MOMA, told me about it, and my jaw dropped, as it happened to me, in the “Rothko Room” at the Tate Gallery in London.

      In fact, I am told that the Rothko Room has been used as a meeting place for survivors of either plane or train crashes.


      1. My wife burst into tears when she saw the opening scene of The Smurfs movie. There’s no accounting for taste, but it’s sometimes possible to track when a crying jag is more likely, by looking on the calendar for the latest visit from Aunt Flo and Uncle Red.

        1. I doubt the people at the Tate Gallery will move the next scheduled meeting of PTSD sufferers to a screening of the Smurfs movie! xD

          The Smurfs.  That sounds like an instant and overwhelming wave of nostalgia, not unlike geeks crying during the opening crawl of The Phantom Menace, before being jolted into outrage by Jar-Jar.

        2. My wife burst into tears when she saw the opening scene of The Smurfs movie.

          Lamentation strikes me as a completely appropriate response to the Smurfs movie.

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