purple DIARY




A very interesting art student I know, I’ll call him Giro, who is also a graffiti artist, uses silver paint, mostly in a monochrome style that is uniquely his own. He’s a funny, creative, extremely precise, and nervy artist, and not someone who is prone to any sort of aggression. As a tagger he’s painted a number of gallery façades — entire façades, elegantly resurfaced in silver spray paint. One gallery owner caught him in the act, asked if he was the guy painting silver façades. Giro said yes, and the gallery owner told him to continue.

One of Giro’s adventures was to repaint a year or so ago, all in silver, your variously colored sculptures shown at the Corum esplanade in Montpellier. He painted them during the day, setting up a barrier all around them, pretending to be a professional doing his job. He didn’t film the event. And, as a great admirer of your work, he chose your sculptures, shown in a public space — as easily tagged with names as in silver monochrome — out of inspiration, not assassination. Though the alteration is visibly drastic, the intent is artistic, not just from a tagger’s point of view but from an artist-cum-tagger’s point of view. A lot of public reaction even turned out to be positive.

We’d like to know what you think, and also if might accept his intervention as a positive reaction to your art — in which case Giro might be absolved from judicial judgment as well as the cheap superhero pseudonym I’ve given him.

Thank you.

Jeff Rian

Jeff Rian vit à Paris et enseigne à École nationale
supérieure d'arts de Cergy-Pontoise.

Comments (42)

Raph · april 2009

Oh great my town.

Marcia · april 2009

It is embarrassing to me as a French artist that this was done to M. Mccollums work. It is especially shaming that M. Rian has encouraged this event, and pretends that he is not the professor of the artist who did the damage. M. Rian is a mentor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Nîmes, and his protégé of whom he is very proud is the artist Orion Genet, this fact that is well-known in the neighborhood of France. In my opinion M. Genet should be arrested, and M. Rian should be relieved of his positions, for this irresponsibility and his obvious dishonesty in this blog, diguising his participation with M. Orion. It is also shameful that he is retained by Purple magazine and described as a person of respect.

Gerry · april 2009

I agree with Marcia, except the name of the so-called "artist" is Orion Giret, not Orion Genet. I have met Allan McCollum, he is a good person, he does not deserve this distress and insult, and I agree that Mr. Rian is not being honest in admitting he is the teacher of this artist who has so little respect for other artists -- especially Mr. McCollum, who has worked for so many years and contributed much to many. I believe Mr. Rian should be excluded from his positions, for his dishonesty and his encouragement of this sort of studently stupidity.

John Major · april 2009

Yuck! This is not art, this is a student without morals. And his professor should be fired.

Mignon · april 2009

M. Rian est bien connue pour la fraude et la futilité. Il ne l'a pas écrit quelque chose d'important en 15 ans. Sa seule compétence est d'essayer de créer journalistique drame, au lieu de promouvoir une véritable réflexion. Malheureusement, sa carrière a pris fin il ya plusieurs années. Espérons que cette triste tentative de créer la controverse sera son chant du cygne. Il n'y a pas un qui sera d'accord avec son admiration pour ce pathétique étudiant.

GPS · april 2009

Giro's intervention is typical of graffiti art in that its primary goal is self-actualization via pseudo-public grandstanding. As a former graffiti writer, I wouldn't claim any moral high ground with respect to Giro. One could attempt various arguments about graffiti writers' actions as a destabilization of terms of ownership of public and visual space. However, this action should be seen for what it is: cynical posturing on the back of a very thoughtful and hard-working artist whose many years of labor-intensive art production and self-reflexive critical thinking have had an important influence on countless artists. If this professor can't see that, he reveals himself to be either incapable of articulating the problem with such actions or just as interested in cheap, cynical fame.

B.Padilla-Maltos · april 2009

This is outrageous. What is next? go to the Louvre or any other museum and do the same?

B. McCarren · april 2009

M. Rien [sic]:

Why this cowardly, squeamish & insultingly transparent after-the-fact excuse for an act of pre-meditated blatant defacement? Mr. Gerat apparently made no attempt to engage with Mr. McCollum about his 'positive reaction' to his work and so should face the consequences.

Your reconstruction of the story in order to legitimize begging Mr. McCollum to sanction the act is embarrassing to read.

As you wrote of the vandal, you too are 'pretending to be a professional doing his job.'

It will be fitting to hear that you both, as Hamlet said of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are 'Hoist on your own petard'.

"... hoist with his own petard"

Tom P. Johnston · april 2009

dear jeff rian

i have decided to widely circulate your letter to Allan McCullum but first i will make some changes to it's content, meaning and form. I intend to take your words but make drastic alterations and then sign your name. By this i mean i will change you intent, include mispellings, make it grammatically incorrect and make you sound like a complete idiot. oh, I just realized i don't need to bother. you already sound like an idiot.

Simon · april 2009

dear all,

It is obvious that Giro must thanks you all for your participation to this true art process. Initiated by his performance you wonderfully took the relay of his creativity discussing about the legitimity of the act. Your reactions are entirely part of the beauty of his act. & maybe if you weren't blind you could have seen that you are now simple object, tools, part of the 'oeuvre d'art', which is now complete thanks to you.

Marcia · april 2009

Simon, you are most likely correct; this is the mentality of all bad boys, sexual perverts, serial killers, and three-year-olds. It is the mentality of M. Rian that is pathetic, as he claims to be a serious thinker; Giret's mentality is not even worth a second thought.

Lorrie Kazan · april 2009

I agree with the outrage expressed here. I love how Tom Johnston expressed it. Yes, Allan McCollum, and the rest of us, deserve far better than this.

Karen_Knorr · april 2009

Jeff Rian Get a life.

BHDB · april 2009

Prior to this posting, I had never considered Jeff Rian to be more than a sad loser, one to whom no one ever paid any real attention. Now he has become more than that, he has become an artworld joke. Congratulations, Jeff.

Marcia · april 2009

Thank you Gerry, you are right, the student is named Orion Giret, not Orion Genet. Thank you for the correction. I think we may expect that we will hear very little of the boy in the future, in spite of M. Rian's promotions. Do you suppose they are lovers?

Gerry · april 2009

I had the same thought, but you're in a better position to know than I am, having more local info! Coincidentally, though, I've told the story of this web blog to a few people who know Mr. Rian, and this was the first response from two of them. Apparently it fits his profile. Is there something you know about Mr. Giret that fits?

Marcia · april 2009

Hi Gerry. I won't say what I don't know. And it's not my business. But there are rumors, yes.

BHDB · april 2009

For goodness sakes, I don't understand why Gerry and Marcia would imagine that Jeff Rian has any erotic or romantic interests in his student, just from reading his text. All Rian has to say about Orion Giret is that he is a very interesting, unique, funny, creative, extremely precise, nervy, elegant, adventurous, admiring, inspired, artistic, positive, superhero. Isn't this a fairly normal description any professor might make of a student?

Marcia · april 2009

BHDB, you neglected to mention that M. Rian also describes M. Giret as a cum-tagger, haha

BHDB · april 2009

I will not attempt to expand upon this!

Marcia · april 2009

in all seriousness, I do think that none of the people posting here have really looked at mccollum's intentions, to apprecite the works, before they were vandalized. it was a nice project that addressed a certain history of Montpellier, and was erected on the borderline between a part of Montpellier that is being newly developed and a part of Montpellier that is old and filled with local history. The work discussed a complex relationship between the past and the present. It also involved working with art students to create over 1000 gifts, given to local people. And there was an educational booklet that he produced also, as a certain guide to the history of the statues which he recovered and replicated, from a local site on the outskirts of town; statues which were in the process of deteriorating. He brought them back to life, in a way. On mccollum's website, he has a small bit of information:


And there was another rather sweet artistic "intervention" in 2004, by a group of performance artists, which included and honored the work, instead of destroying it, or making a joke of something that was created for the community to enjoy. I was there to see it. Perhaps M. Rian might learn from this example, if he even cares:


Mariyln_Nix · april 2009

How would the Eiffel Tower look painted pink?

Carrie · april 2009

Shame on you Jeff Rian and 'Giro'!

Defacing public art is not an 'intervention that is a positive reaction to art', it is a reckless action without respect to the artist's intent and the audience's interpretation.

Allan McCollum · april 2009

OK, OK, enough, enough. I didn't want to respond to Jeff Rian's ridiculous position, but I'm a bit concerned that the sexual innuendo is inappropriate. Rian may not grasp how wrong he is, or how out of touch he is, but that doesn't automatically mean he's having affairs with his students. He's either just trying to help the student, or maybe promote him (or himself), or something -- and he's doing it in a pretty dumb way -- but I think it should be left at that.

After all this blog activity this month, I've become more and more upset. So I finally wrote to the mayor of Montpellier and also to Montpellier's head of visual arts, whom I know, and complained about Orion Giret's vandalism. I asked that the city live up to it's contractual agreements to maintain the artworks. Hopefully they will begin restoration soon. The head of visual arts responded to me in a very supportive way, and he said they will probably also initiate legal action, so we'll see what happens.

I thank everyone so much for their support here!

purpleDIARY · april 2009

I also think that the city of Montpellier should restore Allan McCollum's work. It's not like the stupid Russian artist, Oleg Kulik who grafittied a dollar sign onto a Van Gogh or Mondrian work in the museum in Amsterdam, damaging the work forever. All the city has to do is repaint, it's not a radical vandalism or destroyed patrimony

-Olivier Zahm

Allan McCollum · april 2009

Olivier, thanks for your support, if that's truly how you meant your comment; although it's a mixed blessing, after your publishing your friend Jeff Rian's promotion and support of his student's actions, all for the sake of bringing attention to himself in the magazine. All he accomplished was adding insult to injury, for no good reason that I can see. And actually, what you say is not true at all. The works were certainly not "painted" originally, they were cast in molds, in pigmented polyester resin mixed with fiberglass and ground marble, and then polished. Removing the silver paint will involve strong solvents and scraping and scratching and chemical etching, which will ruin the surfaces. The surfaces will need to be completely redone, in some way. The works may very well need to be moved with a crane and trucked to a restoration workshop. You are correct, I am not Van Gogh or Mondrian, and I don't claim to be. But clearly art fabrication and art restoration are not your areas of expertise.

Gerry · april 2009

Allan, I think you should listen to Olivier Zahm. While he may not be fully knowledgeable of all the differences between foundry casting with epoxy resins and the applying of housepaint, he has much artistic experience and knowledge, and he gets around in the real world quite a lot. I think what he means is that you should ask the public in Montpellier to only view the sculptures in the late evening, with well-placed dramatic half-lighting.

The first task would be to evaluate the features of each sculpture and decide which ones to emphasize and which ones to minimize. It's easier to gauge the proper lighting by watching for key points. As the sculptures are large and the surfaces are damaged, side or split lighting is called for. While a three to one lighting ratio is good for loop lighting, a softer two to one ratio is best for split lighting. Bring the light source close to each sculpture at a ninety degree angle from the viewers' position. This will divide the sculpture into a well lit half and a shadowed half. A soft fill light should be placed slightly above the viewers' heads, in order to minimize the unsightly surface damages. The key to watch for is proper highlights and enough light in the shadow areas to give the surfaces an interesting texture.

To prepare the surfaces of the sculptures, forget all the recasting and the powdered marble and the resins, that's not necessary. The trick is to find the right shade of make-up for all five colors. Once you've moisturized and primed the surfaces, allow the moisturizer to sink in for at least a minute. Next, pour an amount of foundation on to the back of your hand and using either your fingertips, a sponge or a brush, blend in outward strokes around the large planes of the sculptures, working the pigment into the surfaces. Using your sponge or brush, dab foundation into the crevices. Make sure you don't leave telltale streaks, and if you've applied too much, simply blot it away with a tissue or cotton bud.

Background paper is available in different widths and lengths, and you will need a pair of brackets to support the paper for each sculpture. If you want the Montpellier public to see fashion models accompanying the sculptures, for extra drama, you will want to keep your background paper clean; before your models step onto the setting, cover the bottoms of their shoes with sellotape.

All the best of luck.

Jill Gasparina · april 2009

Hello Everybody, Though I hardly understand Jeff Rian's surprising position (why should'nt his very interesting art student face the legal consequences of his work ? He chose to work on an already-existing art work! The artworld is not a separate world afterall, is it? ), I must admitt that the most striking is this whole story is the silence of the people working for the town in Montpellier. They should have restored the work a long long long time ago.... But they didn't and no one seems to care and they simply don't want to hear about it... Of course people in charge of culture must have changed since the works were commissioned, and you will hear plenty of good reasons for not restoring it (they even pretend Allan McCollum's approved the repainting which is a simply wrong) The fact remains that after 3 years, the city has done nothing. And this is the real problem, not the bad art work of an art school student. Jill Gasparina

Marcia · april 2009

Jill, you are correct, this is the most astonishing aspect to the story. But what I would like to know is where the city of Montpellier GOT the idea that mccollum approved the painting?It makes no sense that they would just invent this out of their heads. What seems obvious to me is that they most likely got this idea from Jeff Rian or Orion Giret or both. Where else could they possibly have got the idea? Mr. Rian has been promoting the idea that the vandalism was a kind of admiring "appreciation" since it happened, obviously; this blog being only the most recent example. But even if an artist himself vandalized his own work -- isn't this a crime? Who in Montpellier watches over such things?

Jill Gasparina · april 2009

The people keep changing, and you never know who you're talking to...But good news, the city of Montpellier seems ready to restore the work (which is not going to be easy, since, as Allan mentionned, they are cast in molds and not painted...). They even told me that they were conscious the works were of great importance for the city patrimony. Next question: who's going to pay? ... Anyway, it's a really good starting point.

Marilyn_Nix · april 2009

Thank you for the update, Jill.

It seems reasonable to me that the City pays (or their insurance company) since they should have maintained it according to agreement, or custom, and later they could try to collect reimbursement from the vandal(s). It does not benefit the local citizens to leave this restoration work undone as a tribute to destruction of public property and as an insult to honor.

We are looking forward to more good news and the completed restoration. It is important for our communities to work together to commission, preserve, and treasure significant works of public art such as Allan McCollum's once-beautiful artwork, Allegories.

Best wishes from Los Angeles.

J. Frimbois · may 2009

Cela est tout à fait un blog. Je dois dire, je ne sais pas ce qui est plus surprenant: célèbre école d'art qui permet de leur professeur d'imprimer une lettre d'amour à son él ève de définir le comportement criminel comme une forme d'art (Rian enseigne à l' Ècole Nationale Sup árieure d'Arts de Paris -- Cergy-Pontoise), ou une ville, en laissant son propre public statues saccagées pendant des années et des années, sans égard à leur propre patrimoine. Étonnant.

Allan McCollum · may 2009

Cher René Denizot,
Directeur de l'Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Arts de Paris-Cergy ,

J'ai été de penser à vos déclarations, et je ne comprends pas complètement:

<< In a message dated 5/19/09 10:35:10 AM,
<< rene.denizot@ensapc.fr writes:
<< 1. Orion Giret est étudiant dans notre école
<< depuis octobre 2007. Il n'était donc pas dans
<< l'école au moment des faits que vous mentionnez.
<< 2. Jeffrey Rian est un enseignant de l'école, mais
<< ses activités de critique d'art sont indépendantes
<< de son enseignement et engagent sa seule responsabilité.

Il me semble que si un professeur à l'école favorise vandaliser d'art public réalisée par une élève de l'école, dans un magazine, l'école est implicitement en cause, même si l'acte a eu lieu dans le passé. Comment pouvez-vous penser le contraire?

Vous acceptez l'élève. Vous employez le professeur. Par conséquent, vous acceptez l'élève vandalisme et vous acceptez le professeur qui publie son approbation. Il est implicite, l'approbation par l'école.

Je m'excuse, je ne suis pas lire ou écrire le français, je suis à l'aide de Google translator. Ou, peut-être que je ne comprends pas la logique française?

Merci pour votre aide,

Allan McCollum

Allan McCollum · may 2009


Dear Rene Denizot,
Director of Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Arts de Paris-Cergy ,

I have been thinking about your statements, and I don't understand completely:

<< In a message dated 5/19/09 10:35:10 AM,
<< rene.denizot@ensapc.fr writes:
<< 1. Orion Giret has been a student in our school
<< since October 2007. He was not in the school at
<< the time of the facts you mention.
<< 2. Jeffrey Rian is a teacher at the school, but his
<< activities in art criticism are independent of his
<< teaching and are his own responsibility.

It seems to me that if a professor at the school promotes vandalizing of public art done by a student at the school, in a public magazine, the school is implicitly involved, even if the act took place in the past. How can you think otherwise?

You accept the student. You employ the professor. Therefore you accept the student's vandalism and you accept the professor who publishes his approval. There is implicit approval by the school.

I apologize, I do not read or write French, I am using the Google translator.

Or, perhaps I don't understand French logic?

Thank you for your help,

Allan McCollum

C. Westphal · june 2009

Je trouve cela tout l'épisode d'être un embarras pour Montpellier. Et je trouve étrange que M. Rian, un critique d'art américain, pourrait penser que Allan McCollum devrait voir la situation comme un fait positif. Ce qui est aussi très étrange, c'est que M. Giret et M. Rian choisir de ne pas répondre à l'un des commentaires ici -- lâche enfants.

Marilyn Nix · june 2009

How's it going over there in the art conservation and preservation department? This is an abomination and an insult to fine art. The laxity encourages destruction and vandalism. Step up to the task, Madame Mayor. This is a blemish on your fine city and it population.

C. Westphal · june 2009

Parfois, j'ai honte que je suis français:


Marcia · june 2009

Il est également possible de vandaliser une page web. Mon assistant a fait, mais indépendant de moi, donc je ne prendre aucune responsabilité:


Marcia · june 2009

archives, articles de Midi libre:



Allan McCollum · july 2009

Voici quelques gros plan des photos des dommages: