Danish artist Ibi-Pippi Orup Hedegaard was arrested Friday in connection with the vandalizing of a famed painting by Asger Jorn, one of the most famous Danish artists of the past century. Experts at the Museum Jorn in Silkeborg, Denmark, where the painting is permanently housed, are currently assessing the damage.
The vandalism began to circulate widely on social media Sunday because some viewed it as a right-wing protest. In statements following the incident, Ibi-Pippi, who goes by his first name, framed the act as one meant primarily to spur a debate about authorship.
The painting, The Disquieting Duckling (1959), depicts a quiet countryside home with a giant duck looming over it. Jorn’s practice regularly involved appropriating ready-made imagery and using it as a canvas for his own creations. As with many of his paintings, Jorn acquired the pastoral painting for Duckling and then crudely painted the duck over it in garish tones. The word used by scholars to describe Jorn’s technique is “détournement,” a core facet of the leftist Situationist International movement, with which Jorn was affiliated.
Works such as The Disquieting Duckling made Jorn the most famous artist of the CoBrA group, which sought to implode the divide between good and bad when it came to art-making. The group was active between 1948 and 1951.
Ibi-Pippi claimed that his act was a continuation of Jorn’s artistic concerns in a statement on Friday posted to his Facebook. That day, Ibi-Pippi allegedly went into the Museum Jorn, signed his name in black permanent marker, and affixed an image of himself to the painting. He was arrested shortly afterward.
“If you’re around, you can go and admire my new work,” Ibi-Pippi wrote on Facebook.
Video that appeared to show Ibi-Pippi pasting a photo of himself to the Jorn painting was streamed live on Facebook by Patrioterne Går Live, a right-wing page that has previously posted videos and text advocating for a “non-Muslim” Denmark. According to the Danish publication DR, the artist Uwe Max Jensen, who has provoked controversy for performing in blackface and who has posted about his right-wing views on social media, can be seen in the Patrioterne Går Live video taking pictures of the vandalism and the wall text, and then walking out of the museum with Ibi-Pippi.
Jensen posted several times about Ibi-Pippi’s vandalism on Facebook this weekend. In one post, he compared the act to artist Katrine Dirckinck-Holmfeld’s recent dumping of a bust of an 18th-century Danish king into a river, in what she labeled an anti-colonial protest.
Jacob Thage, director of the Museum Jorn, told DR on Friday that the institution was working to restore The Disquieting Duckling. He said at the time that it was “too early to tell” whether the painting could be salvaged because the glue used by Ibi-Pippi is “very difficult to get rid of.”
A museum spokesperson did not immediately respond to an ARTnews request for comment.
Following an interrogation conducted after his arrest, Ibi-Pippi was released. A duty officer with the local police told DR that the case was being treated as a criminal one and that an investigation was being undertaken.
In an interview with the network TV2 Østylland on Sunday, Ibi-Pippi appeared to say that he did not mean for his vandalism to have potentially long-term consequences. He claimed that he chose the wrong tube of glue when pasting on his own portrait to the Jorn painting.
“I am sincerely sorry that the work has been mutilated to the extent it has become,” he said. “It was not really my intention.”