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Woman punched, urinated next to $40 million painting at Clyfford Still Museum

10:20 PM, Jan 4, 2012   |    comments
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The piece, titled "1957-J-No. 2," is just one 2,400 works of art inside the Clyfford Still Museum downtown which opened in November. The painting was painted in 1957 and is oil on canvas. It is 113 x 155 inches. Click here to see a picture of the artwork.

For some reason, Carmen Tisch was drawn to the painting last Thursday around 3:30 p.m., but not in the artistic sense of the word.

Instead, police say Tisch began scratching the painting, and pounding it with her fists.

Then police say she leaned against it, pulled her pants down and began urinating next to the painting.

The police report says the painting now has visible scratches on it, but it is unclear if any urine actually got on the artwork.

It's estimated the painting is valued between $30 and $40 million.

"It comes across as pretty inconceivable that somebody would do that in the context of a museum," Ivar Zeile, owner of Plus Gallery downtown, said.

Tisch was arrested and charged with criminal mischief by the Denver District Attorney's office.

Museum officials aren't talking about the incident or describing the damage to the painting. They're only saying they're cooperating with the police.

The cost to repair the damage, they tell police, will be around $10,000.

"It's more of an embarrassment because they've been in place for less than two months," Zeile said.

Still is considered one of the top abstract painters of the 20th century. After passing away 30 years ago, his wife started looking for an American city that was willing to build a museum for his works.

In 2004, Still's wife picked Denver after a lobbying effort by then-Mayor John Hickenlooper.

Zeile says the museum will likely have to increase security.

"Something as ridiculous as a woman coming in, who is probably unknown to anybody, being able to even touch the piece is kind of a slap in the face to the authority of the museum," Zeile said.

As of Wednesday night, Tisch was still in jail on a $20,000 bond. She declined 9NEWS' request for an interview.

She does have a criminal record including arrests for DUI and armed robbery, but that armed robbery charge was later dismissed.

She'll make her first court appearance on Friday.

The City and County of Denver owns the museum and paintings inside, but it's unknown who will foot the bill to repair the painting at this point.

The museum released this statement on Wednesday: "On December 29, 2011, an incident of criminal mischief took place at the Clyfford Still Museum. The police were summoned and the offender was arrested and is currently in police custody. Museum officials are cooperating with the authorities regarding the situation and are in the process of further assessing the incident."

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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