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Friday, February 8
Tony Shafrazi is an Iranian artist, curator and art dealer.
In 1974 he was arrested by the New York City police department after he spray-painted the words "KILL LIES ALL" onto Pablo Picasso's Guernica, then installed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Supposedly he was protesting against the U.S. actions of six years earlier in 1968 at My Lai, during the Vietnam War. The Guerrilla Art Action Group came to the defense of Shafrazi, arguing that he was completing, not vandalizing, Picasso's creation.
A few years later ("In the creepy, amnesiac way that celebrity and money operate in America and in the art world," according to Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times) Shafrazi became the art adviser to the Peacock Throne of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Shafrazi began to assemble a 20th century art collection on the Shah's behalf. He built a museum in Tehran to house this collection. The collection was essentially Western: from Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism, Pop and Conceptual Art. In 1978, Shafrazi opened his own commercial gallery in a small Tehran shopfront. In the 1980's Shafrazi ran a successful gallery in New York, championing graffiti artists such as Keith Haring. (who worked for a short time at Shafrazi's New York Gallery in the summer of 1980)
In regard to his 1974 attack on Guernica, he gave the following statement to Art in America in December of 1980:
I wanted to bring the art absolutely up to date, to retrieve it from art history and give it life. Maybe that's why the Guernica action remains so difficult to deal with. I tried to trespass beyond that invisible barrier that no one is allowed to cross; I wanted to dwell within the act of the painting's creation, get involved with the making of the work, put my hand within it and by that act encourage the individual viewer to challenge it, deal with it and thus see it in its dynamic raw state as it was being made, not as a piece of history.
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