An Art Exhibition Mistaken for Garbage Ends up in the Trash

October 28, 2015

Contemporary art may sometimes shock all of us with its often bizarre and unconventional nature. But, that’s one of its purposes – to be radical, subversive, provocative. However, this type of contemporary art’s nature may end up in quite awkward and funny situations. This was the case at the Museion museum in Bolzano in Italy’s German-speaking Sud Tyrol province. An avant-garde art exhibition at museum ended up being thrown in the bin after museum’s cleaners decided that it must be rubbish. Central to exhibition was (and will soon be) an installation entitled Where shall we go dancing tonight?, and it was created by Milan-based artists Sara Goldschmied and Eleonora Chiari. The show will reopen on Thursday, October 29.

Artwork after it was cleaned (courtesy of
Artwork after it was cleaned (courtesy of

Cleaning the Mess

The Where shall we go dancing tonight? installation was consisted of empty bottles of champagne, cigarette butts, colorful confetti and pieces of clothing scattered around. It was supposed to represent hedonism, consumerism and financial speculation in the 1980s Italian political scene (Italy’s 1980s political scene is known for many scandals and corruption affairs). Unfortunately, the cleaner mistook the items for mess left behind by partygoers at an event. What probably led to confusion was the fact that the museum actually hosted a party a night before the “incident”, where a book was presented. The Museum’s director, Letizia Ragaglia told NBC News that the cleaner was new, and was asked to clean up the room where we held a book presentation the night before. When she saw all the bottles of champagne in the foyer, she thought that must have been the right room.

An Art Exhibition Mistaken for Garbage Ends up in the Trash
Where shall we go dancing tonight? (courtesy of

The Show Goes On

Luckily, the cleaning lady placed the “trash” into recycling bins, so it was possible to retrieve most of the items (except bottles of champagne). Ragaglia somehow puts the blame on the cleaner, saying that she was warned to clean only the foyer and to leave everything else alone. But, it seems that the installation really looked like a mess left from the party. The museum officially apologized to the visitors, and announced the exhibition will reopen on Thursday, when everything will be put where it was. The gallery stuff is using photos for re-creation of the installation. The Museion Bozen-Bolzano’s incident isn't the first time cleaners in Italy have mistaken art for trash. In February 2014, a cleaner at the Murat Hall in Bari thought the chunks of cardboard and newspapers that filled the room were left behind by workers preparing an exhibition rather than a valuable piece of art.

An Art Exhibition Mistaken for Garbage Ends up in the Trash
Where shall we go dancing tonight? (courtesy of

Art is in the Eye of the Beholder?

One of the most famous similar incidents happened in 2001, when a London art gallery cleaner binned a work by Damien Hirst because he thought the installation was leftover rubbish. The cleaner thought the piles of full ashtrays, half-filled coffee cups, empty beer bottles and newspapers strewn across the gallery were the remnants of a party in the west London gallery. Hirst believed that the mistake was fantastic and very funny. But, the question is: if it’s true that the art is in the eye of the beholder, are these artworks rubbish? Or quite opposite? Maybe, the very act of the cleaners throwing away what they believed to be trash is a perfect completion of a piece of art. Marcel Duchamp would have been quite happy (probably) if someone had used his famous urinal. But, it does not mean that the Fountain is rubbish.

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Featured Image: The Re-Installed exhibit (courtesy of

All Images used for illustrative purposes only.

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