AVIGNON, France – A woman who planted a lipstick-laden kiss on an all-white painting by the American artist Cy Twombly went on trial Tuesday, telling the court she had committed an "act of love" — not a crime.
Rindy Sam, a 30-year-old French artist, faced charges of "voluntarily damaging a work of art." Restorers have tried to remove the lipstick smudge from the bone-white canvas using nearly 30 products — to no avail.
"I didn't think. When I kissed it, I thought the artist would have understood," Sam told the court in the southern French city of Avignon, describing it as "an act of love."
Prosecutors, however, want Sam to pay a $6,400 fine and take a class on good citizenship.
Sam was taken into custody after she kissed the painting on July 19. It was part of a traveling exhibition on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Avignon.
The painting, which is worth an estimated $2,830,000, is owned by collector Yvon Lambert. He was asking for $2,878,000 in damages, which included the value of the painting and the $47,000 restoration cost.
Twombly is known for his abstract paintings combining painting and drawing techniques, repetitive lines and the use of graffiti, letters and words.
Born in Lexington, Va., in 1928, Twombly has lived in Italy for nearly a half-century. He won the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale in 2001.
Tuesday's trial comes just days after another painting — French Impressionist painter Claude Monet's "Le Pont d'Argenteuil" — was vandalized. Intruders, apparently drunk, broke into Paris' Orsay Museum early Sunday and punched a hole in the renowned work.
French Culture Minister Christine Albanel, reacting to Sunday's incident, pledged to seek improved security in museums and stronger sanctions against those who desecrate art.