On February 7th, a woman was arrested for tagging the famous Eugène Delacroix painting, "La Liberté guidant le peuple" (Liberty Guiding the People) in a Louvre satellite museum in Lens, France.
The woman used a black marker to write “AE911” on the painting, which presumably stands for Architects & Engineers for 911 Truth. The romantic masterpiece was painted in 1830, commemorating the July revolution and depicts a woman leading an army, triumphantly holding the tricolor French flag. The gallery in which the painting hangs was temporarily closed yesterday, and the mark was successfully wiped off the painting. The painting is now on view once again.
The AE911Truth website condemns the act: “We do not know if this act of vandalism was done in reference to our organization. Whether or not this is true, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth) condemns and deplores the defacing of this priceless work of art and all public and private property. Our code of conduct requires all of our volunteers to abide by the laws, rules, and regulations of society.”
Both Richard Gage, founder of AE911Truth, and local officials in Lens suspect that the woman is “mentally unbalanced.” Local prosecutor Philippe Peyroux did not release the woman's identity, however, according to Agence France-Presse, Peyroux does report that she is currently unemployed, has a Master's degree and has no criminal record. He further notes, "We are leaning towards hospitalising her immediately in a psychiatric facility given that the psychiatrist appointed by the prosecutors concluded that she is not criminally responsible." According to Global Post, Lens mayor Guy Delcourt reports that the woman told security guards that “she wanted to put her mark" on the painting.
It is not known whether or not the woman claims to be an artist, but vandalizing famous paintings in order to draw attention to a cause or to promote one’s own art is a stunt that a number of artists have used. As reported by the Guardian, last year artist Vladimir Umanets tagged Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon (1958) at London's Tate Modern gallery. He has since been jailed for two years. Uriel Landeros, a graffitti artist and supporter of the Occupy movement, tagged Pablo Picasso’s Woman in a Red Armchair (1929) at the Menil Collection in Houston. Landeros enjoyed a few minutes of fame and a solo art show in Houston, but he is now in jail facing a two to ten year sentence, according to the NY Times. In the most famous case, Tony Shafrazi spray-painted Picasso's Guernica (1937), with the words "KILL LIES ALL" in 1974. Shafrazi was protesting the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Guernica depicts the tragedies of war and the suffering of innocent civilians. Shafrazi went on to become one of the world’s most successful art dealers. In 1980, Shafrazi told Art in America : "I wanted to bring the art absolutely up to date, to retrieve it from art history and give it life."
The woman who vandalized the Delacroix painting may have been protesting the death of innocent people in the War on Terror that has followed the 9/11 attacks or the loss of liberty with the passing of the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the President to deny US citizens due process of law. Regarding the Delacroix vandal, investigator Peyroux wonders,
"Is this a person who acted under the influence of some kind of frenzy or is it some kind of demand? We are waiting until we are able to find out a little more about this person,"
AE911Truth is circulating a petition demanding an independent (non-governmental) investigation be undertaken into the destruction of the WTC towers. The group claims to have collected evidence that the September 11th attack on the WTC had been anticipated, and that the unprecedented nature of the collapses, of the two towers and a third building, can be explained by explosives, evidence of which, according to AE911Truth, were found by three independent agencies. As reported previously by Digital Journal, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the government agency which was charged with the investigation, did not test for explosives, and admitted to AE911Truth activists that they were not able to fully explain the collapses. The AE911Truth petition to reopened the investigation has been signed by over 1700 architects and engineers. AE911Truth has gained recognition in recent months after producing a documentary 9/11: Explosive Evidence – Experts Speak Out, which was among the "most watched" and "most shared" documentaries on PBS online last year.