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CAUGHT ON VIDEO: Mystery man vandalizes Picasso painting

Posted at 1:35 PM, Jun 19, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-19 15:40:51-04

HOUSTON, Texas (WTVR) - A priceless Pablo Picasso painting hanging in a Houston art museum is defaced  by a vandal, but a nearby art enthusiast catches the crime on video.

The cell phone video shows a man walking up to the 1929 Picasso painting "Woman in a Red Armchair" as it hangs on the wall in the Menil Collection. He quickly spray paints a stencil picture of a bull and the word "conquista" below it, which is Spanish for "conquer".

The man who recorded the crime on his cell phone said he didn't want to be identified, but did describe the incident to a Houston-area reporter. He says the entire incident took less than a minute.

"I was texting somebody on my phone and, as soon as I saw him walk over toward the Picasso, I pressed the record button on my camera app," the man told a KPRC-TV reporter. "It only took one second, he spray painted it and then walked off."

Afterward, the man followed the vandal out of the museum to ask him why he did it. He says the vandal described himself as an up and coming Mexican artist, saying he was actually trying to honor the famed painter.

"I just thought it was pretty cool--how he went up to the painting without fear and spray painted it and walked off," the man that shot the cell phone video said.

Police,  however, are taking the crime more seriously.

They're using the cell phone video and museum surveillance video to help identify and  locate the vandal.

The painting was quickly rushed for repair.  The museum says they're unable to estimate how much "Woman in a red Armchair" is worth.