Joan Miro

Miró on loan damaged at Tate Modern

The museum forked out £203,000 for repair and depreciation costs


An important painting by Miró was damaged in 2011 while on loan to Tate Modern, in an incident that went unreported in the media. The work was on loan from the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona and the cost of repairs and depreciation was £203,000, which is revealed in figures obtained by The Art Newspaper on government indemnity.

According to a visitor to the Miró retrospective, a man leant against the picture with both hands. A spokeswoman for the Tate says that the gallery believes it was an accident. None of the gallery’s staff witnessed the incident.

Painting on White Background for the Cell of a Recluse I, 1968 (above), is part of a room-sized triptych, and the left-side picture is 3.5m long. The incident occurred on 7 July 2011 and the painting went back on display eight days later, after conservation work was completed by the Tate with advice from the Miró foundation. The conservation work would have cost a few thousand pounds, so the £203,000 indemnity payment by the UK government was mainly compensation for depreciation in its value. As its title suggests, the acrylic on canvas is largely white, with a wiggling black line. Although conservation masks the damage, the repair is still just barely visible.

After London, the Miró retrospective travelled to Barcelona. It closed in August 2012 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where the damaged painting was not shown.

Tate Modern has around 5 million visitors a year. In October 2012, a 26-year-old man scrawled a slogan on one of Mark Rothko’s Seagram murals, Black on Maroon, 1958, which is in the Tate’s collection. In December, the vandal, Wlodzimierz Umaniec (also known as Vladimir Umanets), who is Polish-born and British-based, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for criminal damage.