Museum Graffers Caught on Tape

"A good use of color,” says Public Affairs Director Erin Hogan

By Charlie Wojciechowski
|  Monday, Feb 22, 2010  |  Updated 5:30 PM CDT
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PHOTOS: Graffiti Artists Deface Modern Wing

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Was it a blank canvas that needed to be filled, or just a wall that didn’t deserve to be vandalized?

Either way, the Art Institute of Chicago is spending the better part of the day sandblasting off a 50-foot long graffito from the East wall of the new Modern Wing.

The entire act was caught on tape by the museum’s security system.

“From what we can see on the security tape, it was a team of people that did it in 20-30 minutes,” says Public Affairs Director Erin Hogan. The tagging, which Hogan describes as having “a good use of color,” starts with the words “modern art” and ends with the phrase “made you look.”

 For students at the Art Institute, the graffiti is art in the real world; something to be photographed with cell phone cameras and debated.

“It’s pretty awesome,” says Benjamin McCarthy, “they probably knew it was going to get washed down the next day, but I’m glad I got to see it."

His friend Tim Roberts is less forgiving. “It doesn’t need it because it’s nice already,” he says, “in an ugly place, like an underpass, it brings light…this is more obnoxious.”

 This is not the first time a Chicago landmark has vandalized under cover of night.

Last year, the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park often called “the Bean,” was scratched with a set of initials. That was buffed out. The graffiti on the side of the Art Institute will be removed and the limestone will be treated to remove most traces of the paint.

Hogan says the Art Institute does have a collection of graffiti art, but she says it is inside the museum, not outside.

Of this unsolicited submission, she says, “it’s disappointing…it’s sort of the price of doing business in the big city I guess."

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