LAPD Is Reportedly Investigating Street Artist RETNA for Vandalizing a Gallery That Declined to Include His Work in Its Show

The artist was allegedly angry he wasn't showing alongside Damien Hirst.

RETNA at PreviewCrush at Casterline |Goodman Galleries. Courtesy of Owen Kolasinki/BFA.
RETNA at PreviewCrush at Casterline |Goodman Galleries. Courtesy of Owen Kolasinki/BFA.

A newly opened Los Angeles gallery may have gotten a pricey unsolicited submission from graffiti artist RETNA.

According to a report on TMZ, the just-opened Maddox Gallery in West Hollywood was tagged with graffiti over the weekend—and law enforcement sources told the entertainment website that RETNA is the suspect. artnet News reached out to the Los Angeles sheriff’s department for West Hollywood and RENTA, neither of whom immediately responded to a request for comment.

TMZ’s report says RETNA allegedly vandalized the art gallery—not once, but twice—with spray paint. The damage could cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

The paint-attack was apparently motivated by jealousy, eyewitnesses told TMZ. The artist was angry that his work was not hanging alongside that of Hirst—and therefore took the liberty of spraying graffiti-style writing on either side of it. In the photo, a pink, heart-shaped canvas with butterflies is flanked by graffiti-style tags in black. Hirst’s studio, Science Ltd., had no comment.

Installation view courtesy of Maddox Gallery.

The gallery painted over the graffiti but RETNA reportedly “returned in a rage Saturday” and hit the gallery both inside and out with silver spray paint. TMZ said RETNA threatened staff members and was yelling about not being shown there.

TMZ also posted a since-deleted Instagram post in which the artist appeared to take credit for the act, writing in part: “EYE GOT BUTTERFLIES IN YO STOMACH X AIN’T NO LOVE IN THE CITY x YO @DamienHirst I’ll send you an invoice for the specks of Rae black I got on your piece. I APRECIAR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY FOR LOOKING OUT FOR ME. I WAS TRYING TO HANG ONE OF MY BRIMS NEXT TO YOU.THAT’S HOW MUCH EYE LOVE YOU.”

Maddox Gallery has represented RETNA since December 2015, according to the gallery, and held a solo show of his work in London in October 2017. The gallery “champion[s] him at every art fair we attend,” added the gallery’s director Sam Palmer. He declined to comment on the vandalism incident. “As this is an on going investigation with the LAPD we have no comment at this time,” he told artnet News.

This is not the first time the artist has been accused of damaging art. As artnet News reported three years ago, RETNA got rowdy at the opening of a show at Soze Gallery in West Hollywood, where artist-designed ceramics, including his own, were on display as part of a collaboration with high-end furniture maker Modernica. At that event, the artist reportedly “smashed three sculptures,” an eyewitness reported, and broke a vase that was holding a large plant.

Later, representatives for the artist told artnet News it was all part of a “planned performance” and that the only sculpture RETNA broke was his own.


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