The Dead Man’s Switch: Molodkin’s Acidic Pledge to Destroy Masterpieces

Andrei Molodkin, a Russian artist, has pledged to dissolve precious artworks valued at $45 million, including pieces by Picasso, Rembrandt, and Warhol, using acid if WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange dies in prison. 

Molodkin claimed to have sixteen pieces of art, which will not be given back to their owners until Assange is set free. He declined to disclose the specific artworks housed in the safe. However, he mentioned that the collection encompasses pieces by artists such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Warhol, Jasper Johns, Jannis Kounellis, Robert Rauschenberg, Sarah Lucas, Santiago Sierra, Jake Chapman, and Molodkin, among others.

Molodkin constructed a 32-ton safe chamber in which he plans to store the sixteen masterworks. These works were placed in plywood boxes next to the “dead man’s switch,” which is a pneumatic pump that connects two barrels—one filled with acid powder and the other with an accelerator. If Assange dies while being kept in custody, the chemical reaction will be activated, setting off a reaction powerful enough to reduce the items of the safe to rubble in a matter of hours.

The safe is currently stored in Molodkin’s studio in the south of France. However, there are plans to relocate it to a museum in the future.

Molodkin claims that his goal is to produce a contemporary picture that incorporates aspects of art history, a destructive element, and an individual’s existence in the style of political minimalism. A 24-hour clock will start every day and only be reset if Assange’s health is confirmed by a close associate.

For over five years, Assange has been detained at Belmarsh on trial. Last week, the United Nations requested Julian Assange not to be deported to the United States. The organization worries that he could be detained in isolation for some time and maybe given a 175-year jail term. The art shield produced by Molodkin might be Assange’s last resort.


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