CAUGHT ON VIDEO: Vandals destroy art exhibit in Madison | News

A woman and two children were the scene of museum security footage painted over Ji’s exhibit

MADISON (WKOW) — The number one rule in museums, “Don’t touch the art,” was broken when an art exhibit in Madison was vandalized.

Artist Lilada Ji said she was both traumatized and upset when she learned it was her work.

“What the hell just happened here?” she said. “I was confused and angry and then sad.”

She said the director of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMOCA) called her to break the bad news.

“Hi Lilada, this is Christina from MMOCA, there was an accident at the museum” and I mean well,” Ji said.

But Gee said the message continued: “There was a parent here with her two children and there was a misunderstanding and they decided they could interact with your exhibit.”

Artist in shock after vandalism

Gee said the woman and children poured glitter and paint over all his work

Which means that the woman and the children painted her entire installation.

Gee told 27 News the most shocking part was what followed when the caller said, “She wants to know if they can take home the canvases they painted.”

“I was like why are you asking me that? I said that’s so disrespectful,” Gee said.

In a statement, a museum spokesperson wrote:

At approximately 17:15 on June 24, a woman and her two children entered the gallery, a museum employee watched over two adjacent spaces until the museum closed at 18:00. There was a 16-minute window during which the gallery housing Lilada’s work and the interactive education center were not visited, which is unacceptable. The museum is taking immediate steps to adjust its staffing so that gallery spaces are not left unattended in the future.

The attendant, followed by the front desk supervisor, tried to stop the woman and her children. The museum used de-escalation and communication in an attempt to diffuse a very volatile situation. The principal was notified of the situation after the woman and children left the building. The director immediately came to the reception.

The director and another MMoCA staff member chased the woman and her children down the street to retrieve Lilada’s work and prevent theft. The director eventually convinced the woman to return to the museum with the artwork. Immediately afterward, and while the woman was still involved in highly contentious interactions with museum staff, the director agreed to call Lilada Ji. Her only intention during that call was to defuse the volatile situation by answering and rejecting the woman’s repeated requests to take the artwork home. MMoCA would like the opportunity to discuss the Lilada Ji incident in detail.”

Christina Brungaard, director of MMOCA, added: “Most importantly, the museum would like to speak further with Lilada Ji about how to support her, repair the damage to her works and any feedback she may have.”

However, Ji said she is not ready to talk to them and is still upset about the way she handled the incident. She told 27 News she couldn’t believe the art wasn’t protected at the museum.

The hardest part for Ji, though, was that she was ever excited to participate. As a black woman, she said she can’t wait to be a part of an exhibit focused on a topic so important to her.

“We wanted to get black women out there because we’re historically underrepresented in those spaces,” she said.

Gee said she wonders if black artists are welcome and safe in Madison’s museums.

“I want to ask the people of the greater Madison community, what do they take from this?” she asked.

Ji said she’s not sure where to go from here, but has no plans to return to MMOCA. She also said that she was unable to find out who the vandals were.

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