Student pleads guilty in Picasso vandalism case
The UH student accused of vandalizing a 1929 Pablo Picasso painting at the Menil Collection nearly a year ago agreed Tuesday to a two-year prison term as part of a plea deal with prosecutors after gathering national attention.
Uriel Landeros, a 22-year-old art senior, was identified and charged with criminal mischief and felony graffiti, both third degree felonies, after being caught spray-painting “Woman in a Red Armchair” on a cellphone video.
The video, which was later posted to Youtube, identified Landeros as he spray-painted a stencil of a bullfighter killing a bull and the word “conquista” — Spanish for conquest — to “promote revolution and change.”
“He acknowledged what he did was wrong in terms of he caused damage to the painting. But he also understood that a lot of times, to make a point, you have to go to these extremes,” said Landeros’ attorney Emily Detoto, in an article by The Associate Press.
Landeros agreed to plead guilty to the graffiti charge in exchange for a minimal prison sentence, as he has faced up to 10 years in prison.
Landeros wanted the criminal mischief charge dismissed because he believed “what he did to the painting was not criminal mischief, it was an artistic statement, an expression, much like graffiti art is,” Detoto said.
After Landeros was identified in the incident, he fled to Mexico in January but surrendered to authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“It’s good the judicial process has done its work and come to a conclusion,” said Menil spokesman Vance Muse, according to The Associated Press.
Muse said the painting’s restoration is close to completion, but no date has been set on when it will be available for display again.
Landeros plans to return to UH after his release from prison to finish the one semester he has left for his bachelor’s to continue his art career, Detoto said.
“We’re hopeful that he’ll be able to turn a positive out of this experience.”