Rothko painting defaced at Tate Modern in London

LONDON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - A painting by Russian-Americanartist Mark Rothko was defaced by a visitor to London's TateModern museum on Sunday and a spokeswoman said police wereinvestigating.

According to a statement from the popular gallery located onthe River Thames, the incident took place at 15:25 p.m.

"Tate can confirm that ... there was an incident at TateModern in which a visitor defaced one of Rothko's Seagram muralsby applying a small area of black paint with a brush to thepainting," it added.

Rothko, considered one of the 20th century's most importantartists and whose works sell at auction for tens of millions ofdollars, was commissioned to paint the Seagram Murals in the1950s for the new Four Seasons restaurant in New York.

Several of them ended up in the Tate collection after theywere given as gifts, and Tate describes the famous series ofsoft-edged, coloured rectangles, as "iconic".

Tim Wright wrote on the Twitter micro-blogging site that hewitnessed the incident and posted a photograph of the damagedcanvas online.

"Very bizarre, he sat there for a while then just went forit and made a quick exit," Wright wrote. "This guy calmly walkedup, took out a marker pen and tagged it. Surreal."

In May, Rothko's "Orange, Red, Yellow" sold for $86.9million, a new auction record for the artist, at Christie's inNew York.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Alison Williams)

((Mike.Collett-White@thomsonreuters.com)(tel: +44 7990 560229))