File this under “The Most Ridiculous Thing I’ve Read in Years”, cross-filed under “I Can’t”: a well-meaning janitor at the Museion Bozen-Bolzano, a few hours north of Venice, Italy, dismantled a modern art exhibit because she thought it was trash. Literally.
Artists Sara Goldschmied and Eleonora Chiari created an exhibit titled “Where shall we go dancing tonight?”, a room filled with streamers, empty champagne bottles, confetti, cigarette butts, and general detritus, meant to “represent hedonism, consumerism and financial speculation in the 1980s Italian political scene.”1 Obviously. (I don’t get modern art.)
The cleaner was new, and had been told to clean part of the gallery after a book party the night before. Seeing empty champagne bottles and party remnants on the floor, she naturally assumed “Where shall we go dancing tonight?” was her assignment, and proceeded to bag everything up and dump it into recycling bins, perpetrating an accidental art heist. Though, does it count as a heist if she only threw everything in the garbage?
The museum director was able to re-install the entire exhibit by pulling the items out of the trash. A popular Italian art critic, Vittorio Sgarbi, has summed this whole situation up better than I could, saying the janitor’s cleaning spree was entirely justified. “If she thought it was rubbish, it means it was. Art should be understood by everyone — including cleaners. The fact that the museum could simply pick the pieces from the trash bin and put them back together shows you that wasn’t art in the first place.” Mic drop.
Now pardon me while I go giggle for a little bit. And dig up this quote from Steve Martin’s “An Object of Beauty,” my favorite book about the art world: “You want to know how I think art should be taught to children? Take them to a museum and say, ‘This is art, and you can’t do it.’” Some art is just garbage.