At midnight on Saturday, Chris Johnson cut a long line of art lovers and walked right into the Whitney Museum. It was the last weekend the museum will be open before moving downtown to the base of the High Line, so the old Marcel Breuer-designed brutalist Whitney was open for 36-hours straight. It was also the last day to see the mega-Jeff Koons retrospective. Johnson, 33, approached a blank wall next to a Koons’ purple mirrored “Hanging Heart.” He pulled a paint can from his jacket and sprayed in big, black script PPPrieless, likely misspelling ‘priceless’ because of the pressure he felt tagging in a museum full of people. (While not exactly priceless, the “Hanging Heart” sculpture series sells for over $20 million per heart.) He almost escaped but was tackled by guards. They held him until the NYPD arrested him. He was charged with criminal mischief and graffiti. No art was damaged.
Johnson would not talk on record because of the pending charges. He is a member of the Peter Pan Posse (PPP), a downtown graffiti crew whose work occasionally hits the wrong notes with authorities but is still considered gallery-worthy art, with canvasses selling into the low five-figures. He was also a main character in Cat Marnell’s book proposal, which sold for $500,000, for which he received zero compensation. He was bonded out last night and has a hearing in December. For the record, Johnson likes Koons’ work and even went to see him speak at the Whitney a few weeks ago.
Please enjoy these exclusive videos of Johnson defacing the Whitney before it becomes an adjunct of The Met:
And here is his scuffle with security: