Couple in Seoul accidentally vandalise $500,000 graffiti artwork

The pair said they mistakenly believed the work by American graffiti artist JonOne to be 'participatory art'

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A couple in South Korea accused of damaging artwork by American graffiti artist JonOne said they had mistakenly thought they were allowed to daub paint on the piece as "participatory art".

The 240 centimetre by 700cm untitled artwork is estimated to be worth as much as $500,000 and was painted by JonOne, who lives in New York, in 2016 in front of an audience in Seoul.

Scroll to see the before and after of the work:


Paint cans and brushes from the live performance are moved with the artwork, including to its current location at a gallery in Lotte World Mall, a shopping complex in the Songpa District of Seoul, and are displayed on the ground in front of the painting and considered part of the artwork.

According to exhibition staff, on Friday, CCTV cameras captured a young man and woman in their twenties picking up some of the paint and splattering and rubbing it on the artwork.

Police reviewed the CCTV footage before arresting the couple at the mall. They were later released, said head of exhibition Kang Wook, who said the gallery decided not to file charges because it appeared to be an honest mistake.

"They thought they were allowed to do that as participatory art and made a mistake," he said. "We are currently in discussions with the artist about whether to restore it."

After the incident, the gallery put up a wire fence and additional signs saying "Do Not Touch".

Some visitors were seen taking pictures of the damaged artwork on Friday and Kang said inquiries about the show had increased after the incident.