The previously unnamed Vija Celmins painting destroyed by a museum guard at the Carnegie museum in Pittsburgh has sadly turned out be the one owned by The Art Institute of Chicago.
Art or Idiocy? received the tip earlier today and is now confirmed by the Chicago Tribune.
Vija Celmins • American, born Latvia, 1938 • Night Sky #2 • 1991 • oil on canvas, mounted on aluminum • 18 x 21.5in • Ada S. Garrett Fund, 1995.240
Its future is unknown. Reports have contradicted as to whether it was "slashed" or "gouged." And the Carnegie's conservators have been reported to have said it is "a total loss." Although now it is in conservation at AIC. This is especially sad since Celmins just visited the Art Institute last year to give the A. James Speyer Memorial Contemporary Art Lecture. The invitation card featured the painting on it.
This calls to question not only who would do this, and to a painting like that, but who hired this person? The old model of the museum officer, an employee of the museum, not a rental service, is long gone for the most part. The perpetrator is, according to the Trib, a contracted guard. One wonders, what sort of background checks were conducted? Did he ever mention wanting to destroy works of art? Of course it is callous to assume a guard from an agency is not as capable or caring as one hired by the museum proper, but it does raise questions as to how rigorous the hiring process is. Indeed, being brought in as a "loss management worker" at a Walgreens is very different than working a public art museum.