Cleaner chucks out 'rubbish' Sala Murat art

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People in a modern Museum (Museum Of Modern Art ) in New York City, USA

Scattered biscuit crumbs, newspapers and cardboard definitely looked rubbish to one Italian cleaner, tossing it out. But the unnamed cleaner, toiling in the Sala Murat modern art gallery in Bari, Southern Italy, despatched the exhibit - worth €10,000 - to a landfill site. The cleaner defended herself, claiming she was 'just doing her job'.

Don't throw it away

The piece of artwork was supposed to encourage viewers to consider their environment. Happily, the museum's insurance policy will stump up the damage. City marketing commissioner Antonio Maria Vasile told the Mirror they were "very sorry for what happened. It's clear the cleaning person did not realise she had thrown away two works and their value."

Vasile added: "But this is all about the artists who have been able to better interpret the meaning of contemporary art, which is to interact with the environment."

Security officers at the Sala Murat museum noticed the work was absent when it opened to the public on Wednesday morning. Certainly this piece of contemporary art will be interacting with the environment now, biodegrading rapidly - though not the one it was intended for.

Would cross-dressing artist Grayson Perry have some sympathy for the cleaner? In the past Perry says he finds it arrogant that some people will point at something and declare it art.

Very intellectual

"Its a very intellectual idea of art somehow. And I would like the opposite power in many ways. I would love to point at something and say, 'No it's no longer art, that there.' I'd love that power."

In 2012 there was the case of the OAP artist whose botched DIY job on a church fresco led to ridicule - then claims of royalties when people flocked to see her fresco re-work of Jesus Christ, known as Behold the Man (or Behold the Monkey, as some tagged the new interpretation).

However, the Sala Murat gallery cleaner should take consolation from a Tate Britain colleague: in 2004 a Tate cleaner chucked part of an installation - a bag filled with old paper and cardboard - by artist and political activist Gustav Metzger, then 78.

It was part of Metzger's Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art. A very grand title for part of an artwork that got a helping hand in 'auto-destructing', promptly despatched to the crusher.