Italian cleaners bin 'rubbish' modern art

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Cleaners at the Museion modern art gallery in Bolzano accidently cleaned away an installation thinking it was rubbish. Photo: Luke Stearns/Flickr
09:49 CET+01:00
Cleaning staff at the Museion modern art gallery in Bolzano have landed themselves in hot water after mistakenly sweeping up a modern art exhibit they thought was the remnants of the previous night's party.

On Friday night, there was a gathering at the gallery and on Saturday morning the cleaning team got to work.

On arrival, they found empty bottles strewn across the floor, cigarette buts, confetti and even shoes and clothes. It looked like it had been quite a night, but the cleaning staff were unfazed and set about restoring order.

However, these were not the remnants of the previous night's party but an art exhibition called 'We were going to dance tonight' by Milanese artists Goldschmied & Chiari.

The artistic installment was aimed at satirizing the lavish parties and excesses of the Italian political classes during the 1980s. Yet, clearly it was a case of art imitating life a bit too convincingly.

“Of course we warn staff not to clean away art,” gallery curator Letizia Ragaglia told Alto Adige. “ We told them just to clean the foyer because that's where the event on Friday night had been. Evidently, they mistook the installation for the foyer...”

Fortunately, all was not lost. After organizing the 'rubbish' art into separate bin bags for glass and plastic, the cleaners realized their error before they threw out the artworks for good.

“We will try to put it back as it was, using photos to help us,” Ragaglia said.

This is by far not the first time a modern art installation has been mistaken for rubbish.

Last year, a cleaner at an art gallery in Bari threw away a piece containing old biscuit crumbs that was worth €10,000.

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It's not just an Italian problem either. A Damien Hirst collection of beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays was thrown out of an exhibition in London in 2001, while in 2004 a bag of paper and cardboard by German artist Gustav Metzger was cleared away at the Tate Britain. 

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