An artist in France said he will destroy paintings by icons Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and others using acid if WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange dies in prison.
Andrei Molodkin, an artist in the south of France, is planning to destroy up to $45 million worth of masterpieces that have been donated to him.
Molodkin said he put the paintings in a 29-ton safe that is connected to two barrels. One barrel contains acid powder, while the other holds accelerators. When pumped together into the safe, the reaction will be powerful enough to destroy all of the masterpieces, according to Sky News.
The initiative is backed by Julian Assange’s wife, Stella, and is dubbed “Dead Man’s Switch.”
“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 told Sky News. “Since Julian Assange has been in prison … freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of information has started to be more and more repressed. I have this feeling very strongly now.”
Assange, the Australian WikiLeaks founder, is currently in jail in the U.K., awaiting the results of his appeal over extradition to the U.S. where he would face charges under the Espionage Act. The final appeal will be heard later this month.
WikiLeaks, a media organization, has published thousands of leaked documents related to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Assange, the organization’s founder, is wanted by the U.S. for allegedly conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to unlawfully obtain and publish classified national security documents that could “cause irreparable injury to the United States or be used to the advantage of a foreign nation,” according to his 2018 federal indictment. Assange denies any wrongdoing.
Molodkin said the safe will be attached to a 24-hour timer that will have to be reset every day. If not, it substances from both barrels will be released and destroy the art. He said the safe in his studio will be sealed Friday and later transported to a museum.
Human rights advocates and The New York Times editorial board have argued that Assange’s prosecution would damage freedom of the press.
Stella Assange, who has two kids with her husband, asked Sky News: “Which is the greater taboo – destroying art or destroying human life?”