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Vandalized Picasso ready to hang again

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 5:34 PM EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A man painted graffiti on Picasso's masterpiece before fleeing the Houston museum
  • An art patron recorded the act of vandalism with his cell phone's camera, aiding investigators
  • "The damage is being undone and the prognosis is excellent," a museum spokeswoman says

(CNN) -- A vandal's paint has been removed from Pablo Picasso's "Woman in a Red Armchair" and the 1929 painting will soon hang again in the Menil Collection museum in Houston, a museum spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Houston police are searching for a man, believed to be about 20 years old, who painted graffiti on the masterpiece before fleeing the museum last Wednesday afternoon.

An art patron recorded the act of vandalism with his cell phone's camera, giving investigators good leads.

"The painting went directly to the on-site conservation lab down the hall," said museum spokeswoman Gretchen Sammons. "The damage is being undone and the prognosis is excellent."

The man, who was wearing a dress suit, used gold spray paint to put the figure of a bull and the word "Conquista" in the center of the canvas, Houston police spokesman said.

"We are questioning anybody who might have knowledge of the case," Smith said. "We're also asking anyone with knowledge about it to contact our crime stoppers."

Menil Collection Director Josef Helfenstein called it an "unfortunate incident."

"It threatened the public's ability to enjoy a wonderful painting and violated the bonds of trust that enable museums to share great works with their visitors," Helfenstein said. "We are cooperating fully with the Houston Police Department in its efforts to bring the perpetrator or perpetrators to justice."

CNN's Nick Valencia contributed to this report.

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