Conceptualist Andrei Molodkin, who lives in France, intends to destroy almost two dozen paintings by world famous artists, including Picasso, Rembrandt and Warhol, if WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange dies in prison. He spoke about this action in support of Julian Assange to the British channel Sky News ahead of the final hearings on the extradition of Julian Assange from the UK to the US, scheduled for February 20-21.
According to Andrei Molodkin, he collected 16 works of art, the total value of which is estimated at $45 million, and locked them in his 29-ton safe. He also placed an “extremely caustic” substance in the safe and a special device with a timer that could be used to start a chemical reaction and destroy the masterpieces inside. Mr. Molodkin called this action “Dead Man’s Switch.”
Australian journalist and activist Julian Assange founded the website WikiLeaks in 2006, specializing in publishing confidential information. In 2010, the United States began investigating Assange on suspicion of violating provisions of the Espionage Act and publishing confidential military and diplomatic documents. In addition, charges of sexual harassment and rape were brought against him in Sweden. In 2011, the court decided to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the Swedish authorities; in 2012, an appeal in this case was rejected. Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he remained for almost seven years. On April 11, 2019, Ecuador denied him diplomatic asylum, and the journalist was detained by British police while leaving the embassy. The journalist is currently in London's Belmarsh prison awaiting a decision on the latest possible appeal against the extradition decision to the United States. In the United States, he faces a sentence of 175 years in prison.
As Andrei Molodkin told Sky News, “in our catastrophic times, when there are so many wars in the world, destroying works of art is a greater taboo than destroying the life of a person.”
He does not disclose which works of art he intends to destroy if the journalist dies in prison. He only says that the safe contains works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jannis Kounellis, Robert Rauschenberg, Sarah Lucas, Santiago Sierra, Jake Chapman and his own. It is known that the Picasso painting was provided to Molodkin by the owner of an art gallery in Milan, Giampaolo Abbondio. At the same time, he had to sign a non-disclosure agreement prohibiting him from disclosing which Picasso painting was donated for the campaign. Mr. Abbondio explained his decision to support the action this way: “I was convinced by the idea that it is more important for the world to have one Assange than another Picasso.”
According to Andrei Molodkin, he will not experience any emotions if works of art are destroyed. If Julian Assange is released from prison, the artist says, all works from the safe will be returned to the owners. The action is also supported by Julian Assange's wife Stella.