Gallery show for accused Picasso vandal raises ire
In this Oct. 23, 2012 photo, James Perez, owner of Cueto James Art Gallery, poses between pieces titled "Ego", left, and "Legalize Drugs", right, that will be in the show titled "Uriel Landeros: Houston We Have a Problem" in Houston. Uriel Landeros, is the man accused of vandalizing a Picasso painting at the Menil with spray paint in June. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)
A Houston art gallery has raised the ire of the local art community by staging a show of works by a 22-year-old who's been on the lam since being charged with spray-painting a Pablo Picasso painting.
Despite the uproar, Cueto James Art Gallery owner James Perez expects a full house for Friday's opening of 12 works by Uriel Landeros.
"It made me happy that someone could evoke this kind of emotion in people," Perez said.
Landeros was charged with felony graffiti and felony criminal mischief for allegedly defacing "Woman in a Red Armchair" at Houston's Menil Collection on June 13. A video posted on YouTube showed a man holding a stencil up to the work of art and spray-painting it, leaving behind an image of a bullfighter, a bull and the word "conquista," Spanish for conquest.
Perez, who said he was interested in Landeros' work prior to the vandalism charge, said he found the act inspiring.
"It's just taking something and making it your own. I like what Uriel did. That it makes it yours," Perez said.
But the contention that the stencil was itself art has especially angered people in the Houston arts community.
"You don't destroy someone else's artwork and call that art," said artist Mitch Cohen, an arts promoter and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market. "I've never seen such a backlash against a show."
Kristen Kramlich, who creates jewelry and sculptures, said, "It's all about the sensationalism and that's what (Landeros is) riding on and that's what the gallery is riding on."
Perez denied the show is meant to draw attention to himself, saying, "I'm already popular. This is for Uriel."
In this Oct. 23, 2012 photo, Kent Morrison known as DJ Relentless prepares for an upcoming performance at Cueto James Art Gallery, for the opening of show titled "Uriel Landeros: Houston We Have a Problem" in Houston. Uriel Landeros, is the man accused of vandalizing a Picasso painting at the Menil with spray paint in June. The work in the background is not by Landeros. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Melissa Phillip)
Art community members also say it's galling to see so much attention being paid to this show when local gallery shows usually escape widespread notice.
"The greatest gallery exhibit in history would not get this publicity," said Houston art blogger Robert Boyd, who noted he'd not heard of Landeros prior to the vandalism charge.
Andree Bober, director of Landmarks, a public art program at the University of Texas at Austin, said this vandalism incident isn't unique.
"It's not a new statement. It's a derivative one," she said.