Artist Threatens to Destroy $45M in Masterpieces for Julian Assange's Freedom

Written by Henrik Rothen

Feb.15 - 2024 11:12 AM CET

Photo: Wiki Commons
Photo: Wiki Commons
Artist Threatens to Destroy $45M in Masterpieces for Julian Assange's Freedom.

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In an audacious stand for freedom of expression, an artist in the south of France has vowed to obliterate up to $45 million worth of iconic artworks, including creations by Rembrandt, Picasso, and Andy Warhol, contingent upon the demise of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in prison. This dramatic statement, reported by Sky News, underscores the escalating concern over Assange's welfare and the broader implications for press freedom.

Andrei Molodkin, the artist spearheading this bold initiative, titled "Dead Man's Switch," has devised a mechanism whereby a collection of masterpieces, generously donated to him, could be instantaneously destroyed. The art pieces are secured within a 29-ton safe, connected to two barrels filled with an acid powder and an accelerator. The concoction, once activated, would irreversibly disintegrate the safe's contents.

This project not only reflects Molodkin's profound distress over the suppression of free speech and information but also challenges societal norms regarding the sanctity of art versus human life. "In our catastrophic time — when we have so many wars — to destroy art is much more taboo than to destroy the life of a person," Molodkin conveyed to Sky News, emphasizing the skewed priorities of contemporary society.

Assange, currently incarcerated in the U.K. and facing potential extradition to the United States on charges under the Espionage Act, has sparked international debate. His advocates argue that his prosecution threatens journalistic freedom and the public's right to know.

The safe containing the art will be sealed in Molodkin's studio, with plans to eventually display it in a museum. The mechanism is set to trigger unless a daily confirmation of Assange's well-being is received, underscoring the precariousness of Assange's situation.

Contributors to the project, including Milan art gallery owner Giampaolo Abbondio and artist Franko B, have expressed their solidarity through significant donations. Abbondio, who initially hesitated, rationalized his participation by highlighting the paramount importance of Assange's freedom over the possession of another Picasso. Similarly, Franko B donated a piece dear to him, emphasizing the value of Assange's contributions over any single work of art.

Stella Assange, Julian's wife, encapsulates the project's essence, posing a critical inquiry into societal values: "Which is the greater taboo: destroying art or destroying human life?" She asserts that the initiative targets not only her husband's plight but also the broader principles of transparency and accountability essential to democracy.

This audacious project serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing struggle for freedom of speech and the extent to which individuals are willing to go to preserve it. As the world watches Assange's fate unfold, "Dead Man's Switch" stands as a poignant symbol of the sacrifices made in the fight for truth and justice.