Janitor Makes Million-Dollar Error at German Art Museum

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In what could be seen as something of an indictment of modern art, an overzealous cleaner damaged a $1.1 million installation in Germany by removing a “stain” that was in fact an integral part of the work.

The janitor at Dortmund’s Museum Ostwall scrubbed away a patina intended to look like a dried rain puddle at the base of Martin Kippenberger’s When it Starts Dripping from the Ceiling, according to the Associated Press.

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The piece comprises a series of wooden planks above a (once) discolored trough. Apparently the German-born artist, who died in 1997, intended people to imagine that the vessel’s appearance had been altered by water running down from the wood. That’s not possible any longer, with the square trough now clean as a whistle.

“It is now impossible to return it to its original state,” a museum spokesperson said.

It’s unclear how the incident transpired, with cleaning staff reportedly instructed to stay at least 8 inches away from the art. The work was on loan to the museum from a private collector. Kippenberger’s works have also been displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and London’s Tate Modern.

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