There's a lot to be said for keeping a space clean and tidy. But when that space happens to be an art gallery, you have to be careful what you're sanitizing. An overzealous cleaner at a German gallery found that out the hard way when she ruined a sculpture valued at €800,000 (CAD$1,118,650) because she thought it was dirty.
The artwork, which was created by German artist Martin Kippenberger who died in 1997, was called 'When It Starts Dripping From the Ceiling'. It featured a rubber trough placed under a wooden tower, with paint inside the trough meant to represent dried rainwater. The cleaner obviously thought it was just dirt, and managed to remove it all with a scouring brush.
This isn't the first time a work of art has been mistaken for something that needs to be cleaned up. In 2001, an installation by British artist Damien Hirst was swept up and thrown away by a cleaner at the Eyestorm gallery. Of course in that case, the "art" in question was a room full of ashtrays, half-filled coffee cups, empty beer bottles and newspapers, so the cleaner could be forgiven. The artist himself found the whole thing "fantastic. Very funny."
Other artworks have been lost or damaged this way, including a so-called "grease stain" by Joseph Beuys which was apparently valued at about $557,000, and a work by artist Gustav Metzger at the Tate gallery in Britain that included - you guessed it - a bag of trash. Apparently the old saying/cliché is true: one man's trash really is another man's treasure.