The BBC is reporting that Cy Twombly's painting, Phaedrus, was defiled by a woman who was "so attracted" to the painting, that she couldn't resist an impromptu kiss:
Staff at the Collection Lambert museum in the southern French city of Avignon alerted police after the incident on Thursday afternoon and she was arrested as she was walking out. Source.
This is interesting, because an act like this, perpetrated against what is described as an "all white canvas," perfectly illustrates why something so simple, so obvious, can be called art.
In this case, the canvas itself is an expression: An empty space says a lot, and it says something different to almost every person who looks at it. It represents limitless possibility and beginnings. Place a single black dot in the center of that canvas, and you suddenly have a dialogue about racial inequality. Divide it in half with another swatch of color, and the meaning changes again. Most importantly, the meaning and the emotion is going to be unique to every individual who stands in front of the canvas.
By choosing to present a blank canvas, Twombly is at once saying nothing, while at the same time saying everything. The power of doing so is evidenced by the fact that this woman, so overtaken by the infinite number of possible interpretations, was moved to kiss the canvas, instantly altering the meaning of the piece. At that point, it became her painting, and Wombly's vision became secondary. His exploration of infinite possibility became her expression of lust and desire.
It's almost a shame that they restored Twombly's vision. A blank canvas is intriguing, there's no doubt about that. A blank canvas that inspires a woman to break the law by defiling the canvas with her lips is really interesting.
Twombly's canvas was practically a request -- and the woman who was moved to kiss the canvas was simply answering his call. Should she be penalized for that and, more importantly, would Wombly want her to be penalized?