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'Bored' museum guard doodles on $1.4M painting on his first day on the job

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Donat Sorokin\TASS via Getty Images

A "bored" museum security guard in Russia damaged a high-priced painting by doodling eyes on its blank faces during his first day on the job, the Guardian reported.

The avant-garde piece of art, known as "Three Figures," was produced by Anna Leporskaya between 1932 and 1934 and had been insured for $1.4 million, the outlet noted. It was on display in an abstract art exhibition at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Leporskaya, born in 1900, was reportedly a pupil of one of Russia's most famed avant-garde artists, Kazimir Malevich.

The museum's director, Alexander Drozdov, confirmed in a statement that a 60-year-old security guard, who worked for a private security company, had been fired as a result of the vandalism. His identity has reportedly not been released.

Officials are still reportedly unsure about what exactly the guard's motives were for the vandalism, but at this point believe "it was some kind of a lapse in sanity," the exhibit’s curator Anna Reshetkina said in a statement.

She added that he used a ballpoint "Yeltsin Center-branded pen."

Russia's the Art Newspaper reported that the damage will thankfully be reversible since the vandal only used light pressure when drawing the eyes.

"The ink has slightly penetrated into the paint layer since the titanium white used to paint the faces is not covered with author’s varnish, as is often the case in abstract painting of that time," the newspaper stated, according to a Google translation. "Fortunately, the vandal drew with a pen without strong pressure, and therefore the relief of the strokes as a whole was not disturbed. The left figure also had a small crumble of the paint layer up to the underlying layer on the face."

Repairs are expected to cost about only about 250,000 rubles, or $4,600, the Guardian noted.

In December 2021, shortly after the vandalism was discovered, the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Russia declined to initiate a criminal case since the damage was "insignificant."

"In this case, there are no signs of a crime under Art. 167 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, since the picture has not lost its properties," a resolution read.

But after complaints, the ministry reversed course and launched an investigation.

The Age reported that the suspect faces a fine and up to three months in jail if found guilty, however, it remains unclear whether any charges will be filed.

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