03.08.11 by Jeff

Ivan Argote

“Retouch” by Ivan Argote. A 12 second video in which the artist spray paints over two Mondrian paintings at the Centre Pompidou.

Retouch by artist Ivan Argote

Watch the video below!

This performance was from 2008 but I only came across the image recently and kept coming back to it. Thank you to Timothy Wilde and Jonathan Tiong for pointing me to the artist via our FB Page.

Jeff Hamada is the Founder and Editor of Booooooom. He lives and works in Vancouver.

  • Sweet Jesus. Please tell me that he didn’t spray over actual Mondrians.

  • Arthur Rambo

    The Mondrians were protected as you can see on the video.

  • I think they’re behind glass, at least that’s what I hope!

  • artnet says the actual canvases were under glass, so he just spray painted on the glass, not the actual works.

  • Some say they are behind glass.

  • Still not cool.

  • thedude

    Also known as : ballsy.

  • joe

    i reallllly disapprove of this. i think its awful that he doesn’t respect other peoples art. i hope he doesnt call himself an artist. with an attitude like that he shouldnt be allowed to. weathers its under glass or not. bad move mate. i hope he got caught.

  • i knew there would be this kind of reaction to the work. people reacted the same way to Duchamp’s work. i think many of Ivan Argote’s works are brilliant and i recommend visiting his site and watching some of the videos. even if you completely disagree with me it at least puts this work in context.

    • lapetitefaon

      the video of him handing out coins on the subway, the sidewalk cinema, taking the statute for a swim are all quite brilliant! In fact I liked every video I watched! Except…this one. I still don’t understand it? I think there are better ways to say something than defacing the property of others 99% of the time. From what I saw I personally find this to be a low point and a horrid representation of his work! Curious decision for you to post this video over any of his others, no? I guess it succeeded in starting a conversation…

      • well really it was the only one i could find on Youtube, i think had i been able to post his other work and then mention this one it would have put this work more in context as i do think his other works are more engaging and also vibe a bit better with the focus of this site, but i think from time to time its nice to switch things up a bit and have a discussion.

  • lapetitefaon

    uhhhh, I kind of cringed when I watched this, even if under glass it still makes me so uncomfortable!

    • basdparis

      That fact that you cringe (even when ‘under glass’) is what makes the work so strong. 
      I agree with the others that Ivan Argote is very good. 

  • Gatlin

    Yeah, I guess I’m trying to understand this one.

  • Owlsmyles

    To call this a performance—implying it may be or is relating to performance art—is a stretch. Prank, gimmick, immature antics, misguided … are all things I think of when I see something like this, Mondrians under glass or not. Yes it’s brash, ballsy whatever, it’s still the action of a thoughtless person acting out, seeking attention. Next.

  • tonik

    you should not post that
    this is not art ; this is bull****

  • Jsquared

    A-hole, hack, coward. It just inceases bureaucracy if new rules are put in place, or added security, etc. It also wastes people’s time and money. People he doesn’t even know. For no statement at all.

  • I know the artist and this guy make incredible art. Really talented guy.
    To the haters, just take a look at its website : http://www.ivanargote.com/

    Dont worry the paintings are ok. In our photoshoped times, Its funny that nobody see the trick here.

    • Owlsmyles


      his website is nice, great even—very slick. I understand the basic issues here, intervention, subversion and surveillance, or maybe even voyeurism, institutional and social critique. It’s an easy read actually. To compare this work with Duchamp is failure to honestly assess the context of Duchamp’s work and it’s meaning which was truly radical for it’s day. Ivan’s work really reeks academicism and all the faux concerns taught and accepted by many in art academies today.

      There isn’t anything radical about the work Ivan is doing here, whether I like it or not (actually I find some of his work compelling), but this piece in particular, well it just falls flat. It’s easy to give him a thumbs up when much of his work technologically advanced, especially when presented through his website. Yet what I wonder, my worry even, is he just hiding behind that technology? He’s no Duchamp by any means, and the comparison is vulgar.

      • lapetitefaon


      • to me there are a lot of similarities between this and duchamp’s work – this is about what value we place on art, high art and low art, which artists are celebrated and deemed noteworthy and which aren’t. Argote’s reaction is an honest one as i know having posted work similar to the Mondrian paintings on this site and having people respond with “i could do that”, “this isn’t art”. your reactions to his work mirror his reaction (albeit a performance) to the Mondrian paintings.

      • Owlsmyles

        I see the hi vs. low art critique, as well as questioning our value system associated with them and the stigma that being labeled hi or low art can have on the perceived value of an artists work. But I think that conversation is being made, has been made, for a while now in art. I mean if we begin with Duchamp, then this is a very old discussion.

        For recent participants in this line of questioning Banksy comes to mind right away, and I’m not a huge Bansky fan but I do respect him and his work. When Banksy installs one of his paintings in a museum, right next to works of art that have been deemed valuable and important by the art world establishment, all the while under surveillance and in disguise, and then that painting of his rides it out for a while going unnoticed, I feel that becomes an intelligent voice in the hi vs. low art conversation. But to simply scribble a line of spray paint over two glass encased Mondrians feels lazy and unintelligent to me. I agree with you that Duchamp was posing these exact types of questions, but if Ivan wants to participate in that conversation he needs to step up his A game and try a lil harder. I mean Duchamp changed the conversation of art completely, a true rupture or better yet, paradigm shift, within the established system. What is Ivan’s work saying to add to the ongoing conversation of established value in the arts that hasn’t been said in a more intelligent manner before him? When the boundaries between hi and low art are more blurred now that they have ever been in art history, what is the point of work like this? In a time when LA MOCA is having a show on graffiti art with record setting profits and attendance, shattering the perceived barrier between hi and low art, is work like this piece of Ivan’s even relevant? I think it can be but it must be crafted in a way that adheres to a higher standard. I think Ivan is capable of it, I’d like to see him do it. Hit the ball outta the park Ivan Argote. I’m the fan in the bleachers with the glove. I’m waiting.

      • Conrad Sly

        I think Owlsmyles has missed the connection between this work and Mondrian, and what I think Jeff was trying to say. The selection of Mondrian for this performance seems imperative, given as Jeff mentioned, many have difficulty understanding the value of the art based on it’s relatively low level of technicality. The point of scribbling a line onto a Mondrian calls to attention this notion of conceptual-ism found in art post-Duchamp, and the message would only be muddled if Argote chose to complicate the performance with technicalities, the same way that Mondrian’s message would be muddled were his works overly complex. Whether you like it or not, the message is very clear: the institutionalization of art creates a boundary that Argote has chosen to unabashedly step over with flying colors, and despite the fact that this “conversation” already exists, there’s no reason to think it’s come to a conclusion, and indeed Argote takes one step further than Banksy. It takes the subversive aspect of graffiti culture to another level entirely, seeing as he performs the work un-anonymously and distributes the performance via the internet. I’m an fan of this performance for sure, so long as he payed for the damages he inflicted, which seem relatively minimal if there was glass protecting the work.


    look at that lack of can control…

  • I can’t say whether or not I approve of this particular “piece”, but what I can say is, thanks to Booooooom, I am now aware of Ivan Argote. I spent a good chunk of the morning watching his website videos and found many of them deeply enthralling, evoking emotions ranging from discomfort, to inspirational, to downright laughing my ass off (see “It Rolls”) I applaud Argote for (literally) speaking out on the awkward-quiet-elevator-ride-of-life (see “Birthday”).

    • i love that video especially!

  • Nambo

    WOAH THIS IS JUST AWESOME!! Dangerous! haha

  • At first I was mad, then I got it and was happy. Love a lot of his work on his site, especially the silent one with short clips of people turning their heads, yeah and the birthday one..

  • sea jay

    this is awesome. i really like how he uses squiggles on a mondrian. it’s like he’s demonstrating a chaotic vs organized dichotomy.

  • H

    Too bad he put that dodgy drip on there in the beginning, kinda blew the illusion for me… still nice though!

  • Daimeon Haynes

    Immature or not, this artist is awesome for what he is doing in this video……… who knows the reasons behind it, and who really cares. Can anyone here honestly tell me that they have never thought about doing something like this to a well known piece of work….. the way i see it is that he is creating chaos, something that artists and anarchists have been doing for years. The problem that everyone here has is fear of chaos and anarchy when it is thrust in your face……. if you ask me it is a middle finger to all of you whiny/need to be loved. so called artists. Stop crying, stop moaning and let the guy express himself………

  • Shea Kennedy

    Impressive, I wish I had those guts. I can hardly spray in a pitch black alley let alone somewhere public. I think it would be an honor to create something so good that someone would consider defacing it. In fact I would take it as the highest of compliments.

  • Positivity

    LOL.. the title is “Retouch”, that means it’s not real..
    It’s really easy to do a simple effect like this with programs like “after effect”. it’s like the horrible video of Katsu.
    The others video of this guys are really cool.

    • lapetitefaon

      wait really? this is fake? in which case, slightly clever…

  • mark pieterson

    you can’t bring up duchamp in this case man. i don’t understand the point of this act except maybe one of disregard for conventional authority but besides that it’s kind of a dickhed ting to do. i especially like the comment that Owlsmyles.

  • stephen

    Some of his videos are clever. The only way this particular one would be clever is if the spray paint was photoshopped into the film. Then all this bitching would be amusing. Otherwise he deserves to get a fine. Anyway, I’m getting no meaningful statement from this act. It’s hardly worth the time to analyze.

  • Dean

    I love how people take this so seriously, as if in a few years we will be keeping all the originals of artwork. It will all be a digital image…

  • Jason

    Do people forget when Robert Rauschenberg erased a de Kooning? Scandal? Brilliant? I think Mondrian would appreciate the attention. lol

  • Jenna

    Eternal fame to whoever spray paints the Last Supper. They don’t check bags.

  • Kevin

    Good artist.

    The amount of charged responses here prove that readily.

  • I immediately went to this post to find more information, it grabbed my attention right away. I then checked out his websight. I especially enjoyed this video.

    I found peoples responses surprising, particularly the reactions for punishment.

    Thank you for posting this artist.

  • i kind of agree with jeff,
    when you show people mondriaan’s work or anything similar they always criticize and say ‘my five year old could do that, would that be art?’ + the work itself is fine, not damaged. this is a nice ‘fuck you’ to big museums who leave out a lot of good work and promote a lot of shitty work – and to the public who assume that ‘since it’s in a museum as big and important as this one, this must be good’. it is verry much as duchamp indeed did and marcel broodthaers as well.
    i for one love his website, his ideas and do not really dissaprove of what he did.

  • Steve

    and you’re all talking about it


  • GENIAL !!!! this guy is amazing thk you Ivan, thk you Jeff.

  • maxime

    Hmmm…Pffff i’m sorry but that is not ART!! It’s just a vandalism by an asshole!

  • Dominic

    Under closer inspection the artist totally added the paint in digitally. I’m guessing in the museum he just mimed spray painted then added in the paint later. I think is is why the guy walking by dosent really react.

  • noes


  • toof less

    dudes and dudets there is no rule to art. if a painting burns or breaks in transit its a part of the pieces life shit happens. i like the work personally.
    and isn’t it the point of art to try and reach every possible out come imagined this includes the defacement of art. in this pursuit or would u rather have stagnant shit.

  • misslieze

    i don’t have time to read all these comments even though i want to but i do have to disagree and agree with some others. This is BULLSHIT. I don’t care whether it’s under glass or not. What makes you think u’re better then mondrian or any other artist that u can go destroy they’re work. TOTALLY disrespectful!! i bet if you spend hours painting something and then someone went and threw water on it, you wuld be pissed too. ugh… hey dude… here’s an idea. come up with a REAL CONCEPT that doesn’t involve disrespecting others.   

  • Nón

    I hope he dies slowly and painfully.

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