An Accidental Art Heist?

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.

Museion Bozen-Bolzano

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?

Before and After

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.

14 thoughts on “An Accidental Art Heist?

  1. To repeat your father’s words…Do they not have trash collection here? There’s a difference between art and the remnants of a rave.

    1. But but but but! It represented excess in the 1980s Italian political climate!! …I can’t. Major side-eye at this whole “art exhibit.” xo

  2. Bahahahaha this is AMAZING. I’m convinced modern artists have a secret cabal where they come up with new and interesting ways to pull one over on the general public. I went to see the Yoko Ono exhibit at the MoMA and had SO MUCH TROUBLE stifling my giggles. Seriously, just search ‘Yoko Ono Grapefruit’ and read through those pieces…it’s gotta be some next-level trolling.

    1. Hooooly balls, I was unfamiliar with that and I feel like I know less now after googling it than I did before. A “book” of “instructions.” Da fuq. Now I know why you had trouble keeping a straight face! I would’ve too. I really don’t think there is something profound about this type of “art” that I’m not intelligent enought to grasp; I think most of it is literal nonsense. Look at a Monet and then look at this installation and try to tell me they’re in the same category, haha. Next-level trolling, indeed! xo

  3. I always think of Enid in Ghost World when I see stuff like this-specifically that scene in her “remedial art class for retards and fuck ups” where the teacher’s pet puts a tampon in a teacup and says it symbolises women’s struggles and the teacher gushes over it. Enid’s scowl of disbelief is my reaction to most of the modern stuff I see.

  4. ha, a brilliant story indeed. I do like modern art, but I rarely ever get installations. I prefer things translated into two dimensions. and even that is often rubbish :)

  5. You know, I’m glad to see what you wrote at the end. Because really, sometimes I see “modern” art and I just think, “…really?…”
    And look at what an excellent job that cleaning person!

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