Woman Pees On, About, or Around Clyfford Still Painting

by Whitney Kimball on January 5, 2012 · 7 comments Breaking!

Carmen Tisch, photo from the Denver Post, and Clyfford Still's "1957-J-No.2"

The Huffington Post reports that 36-year-old Denver woman Carmen Tisch punched, scratched, rubbed her butt on, and peed next to a $30-$40 million Clyfford Still painting, “1957-J-No.2.”

Officials from the Clyfford Still Museum, which opened only two months ago, are dismayed by what Mark Koebrich, at the local NBC affiliate, deems “a violent and disgusting outburst of emotion.”

Reports conflict about said urine’s trajectory and intent. Fox News first reports that Tisch “urinated against it,” then concedes that she “slid down the painting and urinated on herself.  “Next to” is the phrase chosen by the Huff Post headline.  All reports grant, though, that no urine hit the painting.

The true outrage lies in the damage to the museum’s reputation, claims local gallery owner Ivar Zeile, posed on NBC in front of a Ken Burns-esque close-up of the offended painting.  He states:

Something as ridiculous as a woman coming in, who’s probably unknown to anybody, being able to touch the piece is kind of a slap in the face to the authority of the museum.

Even NBC fleetingly acknowledges how fucked up that statement is. When Zearle blabs that “An artistic creation, it’s a singular thing…,” the news anchor interjects: “singular, meaning no one else can own it.”  The Denver Post reports that Tisch was “apparently drunk” at the time of the incident, the only explanation offered for such behavior.

November 10th protest at Sotheby's record-breaking $315.8 million auction. Clyfford Still's “1949-A-No. 1" was the highest-selling work.

Still’s value was last discussed when the city of Denver sold four of his paintings at Sotheby’s in order to raise money for his museum. The artist’s $21.3 million auction record was shattered by a $61.7 million sale amidst raging November protest, which amounted basically to class warfare.  While Sotheby’s broke its 2008 auction record and accumulated a total of $315.8 million in proceeds, OWS protestors and art handlers booed “shame” at incoming staffers and attendees. This was perhaps the nadir of the ongoing protests by locked-out art handlers, who claim that Sotheby’s refuses to make any progress in contract negotiations, despite teamsters’ concessions.

The damage to “1957-J-No.2” is estimated at $10,000 – a drop in the bucket compared to its estimated $30-40 million value.  Tisch is held at the Denver County Jail at a bond of $20,000, and will face court charges on Friday.


Noah G. Hoffman January 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I like that someone referred to the $10,000 conservation cost as “A drop in the bucket.” My guess is that from now on, the Still Museum will provide buckets for patrons which might prove cost effective.

Anonymous January 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Good for her, what makes this piece of crap worth 30 million ?
Some billionaire art collector, who has more money than taste ??

Corinna Kirsch January 6, 2012 at 10:02 am

You know, I’ve never asked anyone I’ve worked with about how to remove urine stains from a painting. I think it’s a good question for some lovely conservator, preparator, or Martha Stewart. 

And now I’m about to go down a rabbit hole by asking the conservators I know about urine removal.

Corinna Kirsch January 6, 2012 at 10:34 am

How to clean urine off a painting, from Cray Thomsen, a conservator of 19th century Russian paintings:

If it’s fresh enough just use a slightly damp soft cotton ball and dap the “accident” up followed by a dry cotton ball. If it had been there for years and was starting to effect the paint I would clean it with a q-tip and a vulpex soap mixture follow by water and then a dry cotton ball to lick up all the moisture. Just make sure not to saturate the substrate! 

This procedure doesn’t seem like it should cost 10k.

Anonymous January 6, 2012 at 11:13 am

Thanks for the handy update!  Am now wondering where this tactic has been used previously.  

Apparently no urine hit the thing, but we, too, are wondering how a few scratches merit $10,000 in repairs.  

Corinna Kirsch January 6, 2012 at 11:22 am

Yep. Maybe the 10k isn’t urine-related because, as my friend just reminded me due to the basic science involved:

As long as the fibers didn’t get wet, oil repels water!

Thanks to science, we should all remember this simple maxim, that “oil repels water.” Maybe peeing on a painting isn’t such a harsh act of vandalism? Very likely, the painting was insured for hundreds of thousands of dollars, so the museum’s probably trying to get as much out of that as they can from their insurance company. That’s my current guess.

AngryBroomstick January 6, 2012 at 11:49 am

maybe it was performance art!

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