For Art's Sake Museum Doesn't See Suit over Vandalism as a War

Article excerpt

Although the St. Louis Art Museum's $2.5 million suit against the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York might suggest culture war, the cannon are quiet, at least for now.

On Tuesday, the St. Louis museum sued the Whitney and its security services for damage done in 1993 to "Curtains," an oil-and-acrylic work by the pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.

The painting had been valued at between $1.5 million and $2 million before the vandalism.

It was lent to the Whitney three years ago for an exhibition called "Hand-Painted Pop: The formative years, 1955-1962."

While the painting was on show, a security guard used a felt tip pen to write on the canvas, "I love you Tushee, Love, Buns." He also drew a heart that surrounded this sentiment: "Reggie + Crystal 1/26/91."

The guard, Reginald Walker of Brooklyn, was 21 at the time.

John Rasp, a lawyer representing the St. Louis museum, said the suit is not actually directed at the Whitney but was filed "to maintain our position against" the St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co.

Rasp would not comment on the current value of the painting.

The suit seeks at least $500,000 from the Whitney and at least $500,000 from R.S.R. Security Services of Long Island City. It also seeks from Walker at least $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. …