Was Retna’s ‘Tantrum’ at an LA Gallery Opening Performance Art?

Sources say he smashed several ceramic sculptures.

Street artist Retna reportedly got a little too rowdy at the opening Friday night of “Soze X Modernica,” a group show at West Hollywood’s Soze Gallery, where artist-designed ceramics by 25 artists were on display in a collaboration with the high-end furniture manufacturer Modernica.

Retna, who is not listed in the show roster on the gallery website but had a work in the show, “smashed 3 sculptures,” a witness told artnet News over email. The witness said Retna then broke a vase that was holding a large plant, and then attempted to place the plant in the spot that the now-smashed sculptures had previously stood.

While representatives for Retna did not get back to us immediately, they later told artnet News that this was part of a planned performance, and that the only sculpture he broke was his own.

Unfortunately, this was lost on some members of the crowd. “People gently tried to stop him,” said the witness over email, “but it didn’t work.” The witness, who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation, also shot the video above, which shows the aftermath of the incident when a man who is allegedly Retna placed the plant on a stool where the sculpture had been. Broken pottery is visible in the corner of the space.

It all sounds very shades of Loris Gréaud—when the French artist’s work was destroyed during his opening at the Dallas Contemporary in January, it was Gréaud himself who was behind the vandalism. (Whether or not he also planned to be exceedingly nasty to a critic who panned the exhibition is still up for debate.)

Retna, whose real name is Marquis Lewis, was seen during the incident smoking a cigarette. The witness noted that the police were not called.

“People are scared of him,” an LA-based writer, who also did not want to be identified, told artnet News. There were very few tweets about the incident, and they were cryptic for the most part.


A tweet by the LA-based Jessica Lanthier, @JessTheBestDuuh, however, corroborated the story.

“Tonight I witnessed that artist Retna throw a full blown tantrum at an art show,” Lanthier tweeted. “I mean breaking things, slapping other men…crazy.”

Lanthier told artnet News in a Facebook message that there was a woman accompanying Retna who tried to stop him. “She kept yelling his first name,” wrote Lanthier, “Marcus (sic) over and over again begging him to stop.”

He smashed his own sculpture, according to Lanthier, and then two done by other artists. After, she said, “he yelled that he didn’t care if he broke them because he could buy them both.”


Soze Gallery has yet to responded to requests for comment, and the LAPD was unable to reveal whether or not any complaints had been filed following the incident. Modernica, the high-end furniture producer that was collaborating on the event, likewise did not respond immediately for comment.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, Retna has a history of violence. In 2014, he allegedly beat then-girlfriend Brittny Gastineau, a socialite and reality television personality. The same article notes that in 2013, he allegedly harassed employees in a Los Angeles art gallery, destroying paintings using a knife and broken bottles.

In 2012, he was charged with three counts of battery after an altercation in a different Los Angeles art space in which he hit allegedly two gallery employees in the head and broke a pencil in the ear of one of the employees.

Additional reporting by Rozalia Jovanovic. 

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