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Art Swept Away

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Submitted By aneegarci
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ART SWEPT AWAY Last November 2011, a cleaning woman at a museum in Dortmund mistook a Martin
Kippenberger sculpture for a nasty mess and destroyed an artwork valued at
€800,000. The damaged piece of art was an installation entitled “When it starts dripping from the ceiling”. It consisted of a wooden tower under which a rubber bucket was placed with a thin beige layer of paint representing dried rain water.
Taking it for an actual stain, the cleaner removed the paint from the four walls of the bucket. Apparently, the cleaning damaged the Kippenberger work irreparably. “The female cleaner removed the patina from the bucket. It is now impossible to return it to its original state,” a spokeswoman from the museum said. The incident has been broadly discussed in the art community. Some artists are not sure whether a great harm has been done. After all, what could be more
“transgressive” than a cleaning crew modifying conventional bourgeois art while the museum‟s wealthy capitalist patrons are asleep in their beds? This is something that happens surprisingly often and Kippenberger is not the only artist to have his works ruined by cleaners. In 1986, a “grease stain” by the German
Joseph Beuys valued at €400,000 was mopped away at the Academy of Fine Arts in
Düsseldorf. In 2001, British artist Damien Hirst lost a pile of beer bottles, ashtrays and coffee cups, meant to represent the life of an artist, when a caretaker at the
Eyestorm Gallery in London cleared it away. Sometimes, however, the damage can be repaired. In 2004, a cleaner at Tate Britain in London threw away part of a work by another German artist, Gustav Metzger. The cleaner didn‟t realise that a plastic bag containing paper and cardboard was an important part of the artwork and not just some rubbish. Although the bag was too damaged to display when it was later recovered, Metzger could replace it with another one.

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