[spectre] Janos Sugar sentenced for „Wash your dirty money with my art”

Geert Lovink geert at xs4all.nl
Thu Jun 2 11:31:47 CEST 2011

Three years ago, on June 18, 2008 Hungarian artist János Sugár sprayed  
the stenciled sentence „Wash your dirty money with my art” - sized 60  
x 80 cm - as part of the exhibition at Kunsthalle Budapest, and at the  
same time illegally as a protest onto two private art institutions.  
One of those institutions, VAM Design Center, Budapest, filed a  
lawsuit against the artist, accusing him of vandalizing their  
building, arbitrarily estimating the damage first at 500,000 HUF  
(approx. 2,500 USD), then after having seen it on display at  
Kunsthalle Budapest, raised the value to 1,400,000 HUF (approx. 7,800  
USD), then court experts revised it to 214,000 HUF (approx. 1,200  
USD), and a second expert opinion eventually further reduced it to  
34,000 HUF (approx. 190 USD). The lawsuit brought the attention of the  
public and the press to the work, and indirectly resulted in Ludwig  
Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest purchasing a paper version of the  
stencil graffiti for their permanent collection.

The case was heard in court on April 22, 2011. During the hearing  
János Sugár admitted, as he had done earlier, having sprayed the  
sentence, but pleaded not guilty of vandalism, because he considered  
the act a work of public art, being socially useful, generating  
discussion, and ultimately stopping the controversial art management  
activity of VAM Design Center. The judge did not take into  
consideration the public art aspect of the act, but instead labeled it  
as graffiti vandalism. The court did not allow the appearance of two  
expert witnesses of the defense: Prof. László Beke, art historian,  
director of the Art History Research Institute of the Hungarian  
Academy of Sciences; and Mr. Barnabás Bencsik, art historian, director  
of  Ludwig Museum Budapest.

The court sentenced János Sugár to 5 months in jail, with two years  
probation, along with a fine covering the cost of renovation, 34,000  
HUF (approx. 190 USD) plus legal costs. The judge considered it an  
aggravating factor that the work is now on display in a museum; she  
blamed the artist for making money out of vandalism and also pointed  
out that he is an art professor who is setting a bad example to his  
students. Since January 1, 2011, parliament passed a new law against  
graffiti in Hungary: regardless of the damage caused, those who are  
caught doing graffiti/street art can also be sentenced to a maximum of  
one year in jail.

János Sugár is appealing against the sentence.

See also: http://www.artmargins.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=180%3Awash-your-dirty-money-with-my-art-freedom-of-speech-or-new-censorship&Itemid=94

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