Saturday, November 05, 2011

If it ain’t broke don’t clean it

Who’d want to be a cleaner in a contemporary art museum? You walk in and there’s mess all over the floor, but tidy it up and all hell breaks loose. We’ve mentioned before the story of Billy Apple’s sculpture Neon Accumulation (a scattering of broken neon tubes that cascaded down the stairs of the Govett-Brewster) being thrown away by a cleaner when she found it stored away in a cardboard box. And so it goes. 

Now in the city of Dortmund in Germany a cleaner has taken to a Martin Kippenberger sculpture worth around $870,000 with a scrubbing brush. Trouble is that Kippenberger intended it to stay dirty and hinted at that in the title When It Starts Dripping From The Ceiling. The hapless cleaner has been labelled as “over-zealous” by most of the media when all she was doing was just doing her job. Over-zealous would have seen her putting the whole thing in the trash like Neon Accumulation. Unfortunately the Kippenberger installation was on loan from a private collector (whoops). 

The museum apparently has a Cleaner Instruction Manual that requires cleaners to remain at least 20 cms away from any artwork. They might have been better off with the instruction most private collectors use. “If you can’t figure out what something is or figure out what what it might do, it’s art. Leave it be.”
Image: Kippenberger’s sculpture When It Starts Dripping From The Ceiling