A Small Contribution to Purity, 1996, by Felix Gmelin
After Barnett Newman (1969-70) and F. Keler (1982) Oil on canvas, 195 x 295 cm
An artist friend expressed it well: he said that my paintings are hostile to the environment.
When Barnett Newman's (1905-1970) last painting Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue IV was acquired by Berlin's Nationalgalerie in January 1982, certain art experts established that the painting causes anguish. 'Only with great eVort can the eye become accustomed to the pain the colour inflicts,' one critic said.
The picture was damaged on April 13, 1982 by a student who, according to the Berlin daily B.Z., claimed to have been frightened by it. The student's solicitor used Newman's statement acknowledging the hostility of his work to argue that the picture was an accessory to its own destruction. The argument could have been taken from a rape case. The proceedings later broke down and never came to court, because the perpetrator was pronounced unaccountable for his actions.
The student who destroyed the picture signed his deed 'Aktionskünstler, ein kleiner Beitrag zur Sauberkeit' ('Action-artist, a small contribution to purity'). He said he was convinced 'that Newman, had he been alive, would in some sense have shared my opinion. I feel that now, for the first time, the picture is really complete,
because of what I have done.'
Source: Peter Moritz Pickshaus, Kunstzerstörer, Hamburg, 1988