Security Guard Files Lawsuit Against Metropolitan Museum of Art After Being Fired for Vandalism

Video evidence shows his innocence, says his lawyer.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by G. Scott Segler, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Former security guard James Smith has filed a complaint against New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, saying he’s not the one who marked up a pair of ancient Egyptian statues.

His lawyer, New York attorney Rudy A. Dermesropian, says video evidence will show that Smith “did not touch any statue,” as he told the New York Post. The paper says that Smith had been working at the museum for some years; it’s not clear how much of that time is captured on video.

A museum technician found green marks on artworks in a section Smith was patrolling, reports the Post, leading to Smith’s 2014 termination.

Neither Dermesropian nor the museum immediately responded to artnet News’ requests for comment.

It’s rare that the very staff charged with protecting artworks should deface them. However, a guard at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art was accused in 2008 of destroying a $1.2 million work by Vija Celmins because he “didn’t like it.” He later apologized, and his lawyer stated: “”He’s not someone who has anything against the art world.”

Earlier this month, visitors are suspected to have damaged two 16th-century works at London’s National Gallery, after a private security firm was tasked with protecting the collection. After funding cuts, “It’s no surprise that paintings are now getting damaged,” a staff member told the Guardian.

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