back to article Gallery mulls 'damage' after cleaner scrubs modern art

A German museum is continuing to show a controversial $1.1m modern art installation after one of its cleaners deciding what the piece really needed was a good going over with some Cilit Bang. Martin Kippenberger's "When it Starts Dripping from the Ceiling" was on loan to Dortmund's Ostwall Gallery from a private collector. The …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Turtle

    Zero. I.e. nothing.

    "The owner of the work has told the museum to leave the newly denuded piece in place while loss adjusters calculate the value of the damage."

    The loss should be calculated as "zero". That the collector who loaned it to the museum will not, perhaps, be able to find the "bigger fool" to enable him (i.e. the current owner) to turn a profit, should not be a factor.

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      I assume that the downvote is because you should've said that loss should be calculated as "negative". i.e. it is now improved compared to how it was before.

      I'm not quite sure what to make of this: "one of the most talented German artists of his generation". If he sold a puddle to someone for $1.1, perhaps they missed out the word "con", otherwise a very sad state of affairs.

      The only icon I could think of was the wet floor one...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I think the artist would have approved of the course of events. This kind of artist generally gets off on the whole performance aspect of the work - actually buying a gas station, for example, is probably part of the work of art itself - and so the cleaner's interference would have been an unforeseen but welcome variation that transforms the piece in its new situation, and so on. (Trust me, I get this stuff, really! Unlike the wealthy owner of the art who is now worried about his "investment".)

    2. Scorchio!!
      Thumb Up

      Re: Zero. I.e. nothing.

      I haven't laughed so much since Tracey Emin's tent and sleeping bag went up in flames. In fact I wanted the aftermath to have a preservation order stuck on it (there's a pun about stuckism here), and hope the museum rodents manage to leave a pellet of shit or two in the thing.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Is it art?

    Or a pile of crap made by a pretentious self-indulgent knob, only "understood" by other pretentious self-indulgent knobs, who are to scared of fellow pretentious self-indulgent knobs to say, actually it's all bollocks and is utterly worthless.

    1. IsJustabloke

      I CHOOSE to enoble a simple forum post!

      Whilst I don't disagree with your POV Just because you or I don't recognise it as art doesn't mean that someon else wouldn't.

      At the very least I would recognise as a sculpture perhaps not to my tatse and I do tend to be somewhat sniffy of people who say things like... "this is representative of the urban filth and decay and embodies the simple truth that everywhere and everything is suscptible to the decay that makes modern life so unbearable for people without the appreciation to recognise the artists' essential mesage *sigh* their lives are the poorer for it" but it is an artform

      to dismiss it as simply bollocks is probably a tad unfair, afterall I presume the current owner did in fact pay 1.1 billion dollors for it.

  3. John G Imrie

    Give the cleaner £100k ...

    And rename the peace, "When it Starts Dripping from the Ceiling, remember to clean up the mess"

  4. Alan Esworthy
    Thumb Up


    "The substitution of an actual puddle of rainwater would, clearly, completely destroy the integrity of the work."


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Quality article! I salute you, team Reg.

  6. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    My first rule of modern art:

    If you can't tell that it's supposed to be art, it probably isn't.

    (This rule was formulated after years of personal endeavour, but solidified when I say the Olympic/Paralympic "posters" on BBC News here:

    and genuinely mistook them for local schoolchildren's entries until I read the blurb.)

    That said, if you work in a museum or gallery, don't touch ANYTHING - rather leave a patch of dirt than ruin something supposedly worth "millions". If they can't clearly delineate the artwork from the fixtures well enough, that says more about modern art than the fixtures, to me.

    1. Dr. Ellen


      In a previous life, I was a museum curator. And thank Heavens one of the staff told me about a pile of sawdust growing beneath an artifact -- it was woodworm in the artifact, and needed some extermination. If they'd just vacuumed the sawdust up, I wouldn't have known until wooden objects started to collapse.

    2. Anonymous IV
      Thumb Up

      Marshall McLuhan said...

      "Art is anything you can get away with."

      How true that is, even today...

    3. Scorchio!!
      Thumb Up

      @Lee Dowling

      I saw Frost interview Emin once; when asked, her response was that it's art because she says so.

  7. Evil Auditor Silver badge


    If we all used proper El Reg standard measures, such needless errors would not occur: it's 20cm (or approx. 8 inches) distance the cleaners need to keep between them and art.

    1. Code Monkey

      Roughly a linguine then.

    2. Mike Moyle

      re: Measures

      ...except that the instruction was to stay 8 cm, or a bit over 3 inches away...

      For purposes of measuring precision, how many penne are there to the Reg-standard linguine?

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        @Mike Moyle

        That was exactly my point because the original instruction was to stay away at least 20 cm instead of the 8 wrongly quoted in the article.

  8. Big Al

    There's always...

    ...a critic, isn't there?

  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Can't tell the art from the elbow grease

    Only in germany would you get such a conscientious cleaner. Shame we can't get some like that to do a number on our hospitals.

  10. Dr. Ellen

    These Things Happen

    In similar wise, I have made reproductions of artifacts. One of them was an artifact that had had a *hard* life. So I aged the living daylights out of it. It went to live with its inventor; but his housekeeper thought it looked terrible, so he gave it a coat of fresh paint.

    Fortunately, I only had to re-do the painting and aging. It's hard to tell how difficult ersatz rainwater would have been.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One of the best things...

    One of the best things that ever happened in the history of "modern art" was the Saatchi warehouse fire that got rid of a whole bunch of Emin pieces. I believe Lee Dowling says it all above, if you can't tell it is art, it probably isn't. It is pretty much the emperor's new clothes all over again.

  12. Richard 120

    Post Mortem

    Ironic Publicity Stunt?

    I think this has probably increased the value of the pile of rubbish^ESC<dw><dw><dw> installation and the artists other "installations" by drawing attention to it.

  13. Tom 35

    Double the price

    Call the clean-up the latest thing in modern art. Any one who says otherwise is clearly lacking any knowledge of real art.

  14. Camilla Smythe

    Cleaning Ladies Ay....?

    'Ooooooo, Cackle Cackle. There's a nice record deck. I'll just whip me Vim Scouring Powder out and polish the lid with me bog flannel, Scrub Scub. There, all nice and clean.'

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So you can polish a turd!

    That's all I have

  16. IsJustabloke

    I CHOOSE to enoble a simple forum post!

    I'll be honest.. I'm normally a big fan of the commentardish that generally inhabit these fora but you lot are a bunch of reverse snobs.

    I don't recognise something as art ergo its not art.

    Down vote me as much as you like, at least I know *my* mind is open.

    1. Dave Cradle


      Just snobs. Being snobby about other snobs doesn't not make you a "reverse snob", just a normal snob with a different target from the other snobs.

    2. Turtle


      "Down vote me as much as you like, at least I know *my* mind is open."

      It is possible for a mind to be so "open" that it is empty.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of a cleaner who in the 1970s took down a long distance telephone ESS (Electronic switching System) by running a floor buffer down an aisle between the equipment racks. I don't know if the static and electrical noise from the buffer caused the outage or if he had banged the buffer into the equipment racks. Floor buffers weren't supposed to be used in the room housing the ESS.

  18. Brent Longborough
    Thumb Up

    Common Sense

    Magritte is laughing his **se off in the Halls of Valhalla.

  19. Spoobistle

    Missed a trick

    So all the unemployed Greeks need to do now is create a lot of "Art Works" like this and pay the German bankers with them!

    1. James Hughes 1

      We've ...

      Already got all the Greek art (Elgin grabbed it all)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spell Checker

    Whats a 'scuplture'?

  21. Dr Dan Holdsworth

    That artist must've seen whoever paid for that tat coming a mile off

    Why do the various arts councils always seem to take leave of their senses when it comes to art? What that con-artist had done is make a bunch of morons lob out an outrageous amount of money for a pile of tat; the fact that it wasn't their money is probably the only reason he got away with it.

    I am reminded of a shaggy dog story from a friend of mine; he is an electrician and was hired to do some work in an art gallery. Rather than take the trouble to clear up removed wiring (copper was cheap back then), he simply piled it up in a corner, attached a piece of card to the wall above it with the terse label "SPARE WIRE" and just left it there. It took the gallery staff over a month to realise that it wasn't some pretentious piece of ultra-modern art but instead just a pile of rubbish, by which time it was apparently famous.

    1. Nigel 11
      Thumb Up


      The electrician didn't chuck in the day job and change his name to Banksy, by any chance?

  22. Peter Rowan


    It just shows you that most, that is most and not all, of the techies that read these articles haven't a clue of what art is; about as much cultural intelligence as the cleaner in this piece.

    1. Turtle


      So you are setting yourself up as the final arbiter of what is and is not art?

      I wouldn't mind except that you seem to feel that that right is only yours, and not equally the prerogative of everyone else.

      As for your rather superior attitude towards the cleaner, are you sure that *you* would have "recognized" this piece as art had it not been on display in a gallery?

      In other words, if you take a urinal out of the gallery's restroom, as though you were Man Ray, and put it on a stand in the main gallery, is it art? If so, then was it art when it was still in the restroom when you were pissing in it? And what about readymades in general?

      Recall that Andy Warhol has said, and I will paraphrase here, that you can pretty much take any physical object and put it in a museum and it becomes "art". Some people, such as you, apparently, accept that view, but others do not.

      Note that some of the people whom you contemptuously label "philistines" put that label on you with just as much contempt.

      1. Turtle


        Obviously I meant to say "Marcel Duchamp" as opposed to Man Ray.

  23. BinaryFu

    True Art Incites Emotional Response...

    I dunno about you all, but it's making me laugh my arse off - I'd call the new version definite art.

  24. sabba

    Obviously an east European cleaner...

    ...the lazy buggers we have in the UK have difficulty finding the cleaning equipment.

  25. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge


    And I thought paying a hair dresser $25 for 10 minutes' work was bad. I'm definitely in the wrong industry.

  26. Havelock

    Perhaps if we paid the cleaners properly then we might expect and recieve good work. Undervalued and underpaid workers tend not to give the best of themselves

  27. Peter Rowan

    re: Ah!

    I believe the piece is in an art gallery so the argument about if it is considered an art installation is not in question here; some of the comments also posted here are along the lines used by people in Europe to label modern art as Degenerate Art before WW2.

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      I bet there's a lightswitch in the gallery too. Is that art?

      What about the flooring? The lighting arrangement? Is that still art?

      How about the seat that the museum/gallery staff sit on while they watch you don't touch anything?

      How about the staff themselves?

      And, yes, at some point in time EVERY SINGLE ONE of those things may be considered art in a particular instance, but it doesn't make all lightswitches art, so it's not a defining characteristic (even ignoring the self-fulfilling prophecy of anything in an art gallery somehow becoming art, which would seem to preclude anything *outside* the gallery ever being considered art).

      You can't define art by its location any more than you can define it by it's origin ("Oh, yes, Turner made this so it must be art", say the people gathered around a pile of his excrement), age, history, technique, size or anything else. There is no one defining characteristic, no matter how complex, that makes something universally "art". As such it's entirely subjective and has been for the last 100 years or so (interestingly, before that, pretty much everyone agreed on what was art and what wasn't).

      If it's subjective, my own personal assertion that anything that doesn't take skill to reproduce isn't art is equally as valid as yours that a water stain is art. If you don't recognise that both assertions are equal, you're just being pretentious unless you can come up with a definition of what art is that everyone (or even a majority) accepts.

      Mona Lisa? Art, in my opinion, because it would take immense skill to reproduce the item in question by hand with only a paintbrush and some colours (which is how it was originally made). There's no way I could do it in a hundred years of trying. Even a decent artist would be unable to capture the same magic. Almost all of the classical artists, for everything from chapel ceilings to sculptures to paintings, fit that profile.

      "Modern art" doesn't. Any idiot can, quite literally, reproduce using identical techniques those "pieces" - hell, children often do a better job every day in school (see my example above about the Olympic posters, for example) - and there have been tests and trials where even the most experienced art-lover can't distinguish between a child's drawing and the work of some modern artist that they are familiar with. I think you'd spot a child's version of the Mona Lisa, though, against the real thing and if you *couldn't*, I think it's fair to say that child was a good artist.

      You can be as pretentious as you like and the whole art world since about the 20's has tried to form a clique by the simple precept of saying that nobody else understands them, even when they are caught worshipping the scrawls of an actual child rather than the artist they think made it, and that anyone who doesn't understand these unwritten, unspoken rules is somehow stupid. In that instance, I'll be on the side of stupid, thanks, as will vast proportions of the world's population.

  28. Phil 7

    I put it to you Sir, a stunt. Of the publicity kind

    "leave the newly denuded piece in place while loss adjusters calculate the value of the damage"

    You mean: "leave the newly denuded piece in place while punters come to see the supposed gaff after hearing about it in the news, kerching kerching"

  29. Watashi

    German humour

    Martin Bormann was (and possibly still is) a high-ranking WW2 Nazi whose death is surrounded by conspiracy theory, with some claiming his DNA-identified remains are not actually his remains at all, and that he is still hiding away somewhere. Naming a Brazilian petrol station after him is a nice bit of trollery.

  30. Ben 42

    Cilit Bang

    For a second there I thought maybe the title of the article was just one big double entendre.

This topic is closed for new posts.