Over the past year I have heard an increasing number of news reports about the defacing of artwork around the country. These have ranged from stealing carvings from churches to scrawling over a portrait of the Queen at Westminster Abbey.
As much as we criticise such vandalism as an example of today's deteriorating society, damaging public artworks is nothing new. In fact, it has been going on since the sixteenth century. In a new kind of exhibition, Tate Britain investigates the Histories of British Iconoclasm, in which art is under attack.
What is it that motivates people to destroy artwork? Sometimes it is just pure delinquent behaviour, but often there is religious or political reasoning behind it. For example, writing 'help' over the Queen's portrait was a protest statement by Fathers4Justice campaigners.
Tickets to the exhibit are £14.50 or £12.50 for adult, and it is open until the 5th January 2014. Art Under Attack examines movements, motivations, and causes that have led to the defacement of objects, paintings, sculpture and archival material. These include Thomas Johnson's Interior of Canterbury Cathedral (1657), Allen Jones's Chair (1969), and twentieth century statues from Ireland. There are also examples of decapitated Christ statues and smashed stained glass windows. Among the culprits were religious reformers, and Puritan groups.
There will be a number of talks and lectures accompanying the exhibit, such as Material Movements and The Art of Repair. These cost between £15-£20.