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Pablo Picasso’s Bust of a Woman, 1944. Photo: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr.
Pablo Picasso’s Bust of a Woman, 1944. Photo: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr.

Man Who Punched Picasso Painting Gets 18 Months in Prison

Architecture student Shakeel Massey, who late last year punched Pablo Picasso’s 1944 painting Bust of a Woman at London’s Tate Modern, was today sentenced to 18 months in prison. Massey, 20—who on December 28, 2019, gathered up a handful of padlocks, wrapped his fist in a scarf, and socked the painting multiple times, shattering the glass protecting it, penetrating the canvas, and horrifying onlookers—claimed at the time that the act was a “performance.”

The painting, valued at roughly $26 million, is a semiabstract work depicting French photographer and artist Dora Maar, whose romantic liaison with Picasso was coming to an end at the time of its making. After ripping the painting, which had been on long-term loan to the Tate from a private collection, Massey tore it from the wall and handed a security guard who raced to detain him a piece of paper on which he had written the details of his student finances as well as his estimation of the prison time he expected to receive. The damage to the painting totaled some $460,000 and is estimated to take 18 months to repair.

Massey, a resident of north London, who was studying architecture in Spain at the time of his transgression, pleaded guilty to a single charge of criminal damage. His lawyer, Glenn Harris, cited Massey’s immaturity and his brother’s 2016 death as reasons for the vandalism. Presiding judge Jeremy Donne was having none of it and refused to suspend Massey’s sentence, declaring that the offender must be punished to deter copycat acts.

“It is difficult to conclude anything other than this offense was committed for the purpose of notoriety,” he said. “Apart from the fact you are just 20, I have no evidence before me that you were particularly naïve or particularly immature. Massey, reported to be wearing a loud floral shirt, blew a kiss to his family as he was led away post-sentencing.