A section of the vandalized display. Photo: Gallery 115/Provided
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Vandal crossed out drawings, wrote in names of white European artists

Contemporary art has long had detractors, and a recent act of vandalism at the University of Ottawa’s Gallery 115 shows that contempt for contemporary art — and artists — is still alive. 

In what the Gallery 115 directors called an “unprecedented incident” in an emailed statement, the artwork of first-year visual arts student Emily Lombardo was crossed out “hostilely” with a black marker. In addition, the names of 20th-century European artists were written in the guest booklet, with an “admonition to learn from European masters,” said visual arts professor Martin Golland in an emailed statement. 

“We work hard to create an environment of intelligent debate surrounding contested issues in art. After all, this is how art progresses, grows and responds to a changing society,” said Golland in his statement. “Far from an informed response, we consider this act to be a base, uneducated gesture of aggression towards a young student. It is deplorable and reprehensible.”

“Such actions have no place in our department, university, or art community. By decrying this action we as a community promote tolerance, endorse the creation of safe space for artistic expression, and work to protect the learning environment of our school,” Golland added.

In addition to crossing out the art in an interactive part of the display, Lombardo’s self-portrait was also defaced, said the Gallery 115 directors. The directors called the exhibition, Abstraction, a great success. The vandalism occurred on the last evening of the exhibition.

Gallery 115 also stated that “Emily Lombardo is in good spirits and has received an overwhelming amount of support from our community in response to this incident.”

The department said they do not consider the vandalism of the exhibit to be hate speech or a hate crime. A report was filed with Protection Services.


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