As you can see from the photo, the sculpture is a tower of wooden slats with a rubber trough underneath it with a thin layer of beige paint representing dried rain water. Thinking this was an actual stain, the cleaner scrubbed the surface with a scouring pad until it gleamed!
“It is now impossible to return it to its original state,” a spokewoman for the Mmuseum said., adding that the damage had been discovered late last month and that the sculpture had been on loan to the museum from a private collector. She also said that cleaners had been sent a memo ordering them to stay at least 20cms away from all the exhibits, but it was unclear if the cleaner – who worked for a company to which the cleaning had been outsourced – had received the memo.
Kippenberger’s not the only artist to have their work ruined by cleaners, he’s actually in very good company.
In 2001, English artist Damien Hirst lost a load of beer bottles, ashtrays and coffee parts from the Eyestorm Gallery in London, after a cleaner cleared them away, unaware that they were part of a piece depicting the life of an artist.
And in 2004, a cleaner at Tate Britain chucked away part of a work by another german artist, Gustav Metzger, after he’d mistaken it for a bag of rubbish. The cleaner didn’t realise that a plastic bag full of discarded paper and cardboard was an integral part of Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art. The bag was later recovered but was too badly damaged to be put back on display, so it Metzger replaced it with another bag.