Museum Fires Employee After He Hung His Own Painting In Gallery

According to a quote commonly – if wrongly – attributed to the artist Andy Warhol, everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame. At Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne museum earlier this year, one technician and aspiring artist got to bask in the limelight for a whole eight hours.

The museum in southern Germany on Tuesday confirmed that it had fired a member of its technical services team after he was found to have hung one of his own paintings in a part of the gallery dedicated to modern and contemporary art, allowing him to share a space with works by pop art pioneer Warhol for an entire day.

The 51-year-old man had smuggled his work into the display at Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne “in the hope of achieving his artistic breakthrough”, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported, citing police sources.

“The employee considers himself as an artist and most likely saw his role in the museum’s installation team as a day-job to support his true calling,” a spokesperson for the Pinakothek told the Guardian.

In his role at the museum, the man had access to the gallery space outside opening hours and so did not raise the attention of security staff when installing his 60cm by 120cm artwork on an empty white wall in a passageway in the eastern wing’s first-floor gallery.

The incident on 23 February was not made public until Monday. The Pinakothek spokesperson said the painting had been hung in the early hours and spotted by staff soon after the museum opened the same day.

“The decision was made to keep the picture on display while the gallery was open and take it down after its closing time at 6pm,” the spokesperson added.

The Pinakothek said it would not comment on the painting’s subject or style as doing so could “encourage copycat pranksters”. “All I can say is that we did not receive any positive feedback on the addition from visitors to the gallery,” the spokesperson said.

The gallery said it had terminated the contract of a member of its technical service team and banned him from entering its premises.

Police are investigating the aspiring modern master over a relatively minor infringement: in order to hang his painting he allegedly drilled two holes into the gallery wall, prompting the museum to file a criminal complaint for wilful damage to property.

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Situated in Munich’s Kunstareal museum quarter, the Pinakothek der Moderne is divided into art, architecture, design and works on paper from the 20th and 21st centuries. Its permanent collection holds more than 20,000 works, including paintings by Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann and Paul Klee.

This article was amended on 9 April 2024. An earlier version said incorrectly that the Pinakothek der Moderne was reopened in 2022 after a seven-year closure for construction work. This has been removed.

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