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Lawyer: Museum guard 'snapped'

The guard vandalized a painting at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.

PITTSBURGH - A former Carnegie Museum of Art guard charged with vandalizing a $1.2 million painting simply "snapped" because of life's normal pressures, including impending fatherhood, his attorney said.

Meanwhile, officials with the Art Institute of Chicago are trying to determine if the painting, which had been on loan to the Pittsburgh museum, can be restored.

Timur Serebrykov, 27, is an immigrant from Azerbaijan, and his fiancée is due to give birth soon, lawyer James Sheets said. Concerns about his life and future caused Serebrykov to use a key to slash

Night Sky #2

by Latvian artist Vija Celmins on May 16.

"He's under a lot of pressure, and he just snapped and did something dumb," Sheets said.

Pittsburgh police arrested Serebrykov on a charge of institutional vandalism May 20 after museum officials examined a surveillance tape. Serebrykov apologized and confessed, telling police that he simply did not like the painting.

He is free pending trial and remains under a psychiatrist's care, Sheets said.

"He probably should have been under some kind of mental-health care before," Sheets said. He called Serebrykov "a hardworking immigrant who is trying to make a new life for himself, his fiancée, his unborn child, and the rest of his family."

Sheets said Serebrykov was in the country legally either as a refugee or under political asylum. He said he had contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in hopes the arrest would not affect Serebrykov's immigrant status. Government officials have not commented.

Sheets dismissed questions about whether Serebrykov had been making a political statement.

"There is no political element to this," Sheets said. "He's from a country that used to be part of the Soviet bloc, and [Celmins] is from Latvia."

"A lot of Eastern European countries have conflicts with one another, but that is not the case here," he said. "He doesn't know the artist or her work, and it was not directed at her personally. He feels terrible about this."

Police documents said the painting was part of the Carnegie's collection, but officials with the Pittsburgh museum have confirmed it was on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago.

"We just got the painting back, and it's under examination," said Erin Hogan, director of public affairs for the Chicago museum. "We're going to see what we can do."