Art is rubbish, rubbish is art, so what's new?

Let me continue after I stop laughing-

A cleaning woman at a museum in Dortmund who mistook a Martin Kippenberger sculpture for an unsightly mess has destroyed the valuable artwork beyond recognition.

The cleaner at the city's Ostwall Museum went to work on the Kippenberger installation entitled "When It Starts Dripping From the Ceiling" which was valued by insurers at €800,000 ($1.1 million), a museum spokeswoman said on Thursday.

€800,000 junk art by Martin Kippenberger

The late contemporary master had created a tower of wooden slats under which a rubber trough was placed with a thin beige layer of paint representing dried rain water. Taking it for an actual stain, the cleaner scrubbed the surface until it gleamed.

"It is now impossible to return it to its original state," the spokeswoman said, adding that the damage had been discovered late last month and that the work had been on loan to the museum from a private collector.

Har, har, har!

(Mis)taking rubbish for art, er I mean, art for rubbish comes naturally to us plebeians whose fine senses (if we have any) are not evolved to such sophistication that we can sniff out art from garbage. So these outrages happen again and again-

Works of art not infrequently fall victim to zealous cleaners. In 1986, a "grease stain" by Joseph Beuys valued at around 400,000 euros was mopped away at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf, western Germany.

But seriously, what does it tell us about the people who value junk at $1.1 million? I'm curious, in a scientific way, to learn about their pathologies, how their brain is wired and if some connections have shorted. Has anybody put them on couch and analysed them? Fascinating subjects they would make for a modern Freud.

A lot of art is junk, of course, and not just literally yet I'm cautiously optimist about the future of art. The reason is that the layperson is now not so much intimidated by the dense verbiage that is the official language of the art aristocracy. The obscurity of art-jargonese is purposeful - it is meant to shroud rather than to enlighten. What it hides is the fact that behind all those miles of barren, dark, verbose justifications lies not some brilliant masterpiece or a coruscating example of creativity but a diseased and shriveled and near dead but never dying freak. What used to be curiosities at traveling horror and freak shows is now mainstream art.

But after a century long desultoriness, we are fighting back. We are not cowed down so easily. Sample the comments at this post. Here are a few of them-

Jay Comeau ·  Top Commenter · San Diego State University"Value" in the rarified circles of modern art, has been determined by a decidedly insular tribe of elites that pick and choose "artists" that reflect , or at least, curtsy, to their pathetic view of their own supremacy. How delicious that the common sense of the proletariat deliver their comeuppance in such a simple way. And the response is , once again, blame the servants.

Thomas Wierzba · Deputy director general at International Vaccine Institute (IVI), Seoul, KoreaI think John Hinderaker missed the point in this posting. The cleaning lady was the artist and the removal of the sculpture a form of artistic self expression. We should all enjoy it.
Reply · 2 ·
 · November 4 at 12:57am

Patrick J. Cotton · Long Lake, MinnesotaActually, John didn't miss that at all. He covered it in the main example.
"Or, better yet, should the museum have billed the incident as politically charged performance art? After all, what could be more transgressive than a cleaning crew modifying bourgeois art while the museum’s wealthy patrons are asleep in their beds?"
Reply ·
 · November 4 at 10:52am

 David Bartel · University of Wisconsin-MadisonLooks like a half finished shoe rack that someone made out of paint stirring sticks you could buy from Home Depot. No loss here...
Reply · 2 ·
 · November 3 at 6:06pm

Yup, we are catching on.