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Gallery mulls 'damage' after cleaner scrubs modern art

Mistook rainwater installation for rainwater

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A German museum is continuing to show a controversial $1.1m modern art installation after one of its cleaners deciding what the piece really needed was a good going over with some Cilit Bang.

Martin Kippenberger's "When it Starts Dripping from the Ceiling" was on loan to Dortmund's Ostwall Gallery from a private collector. The piece consists of a lattice work of wooden slats surmounting a plastic tray. Under the tray was an artfully applied patina meant to look like a puddle of dried rainwater.

However, an overzealous scrubber at the museum apparently mistook the ersatz patina of dried rainwater for a patina of dried rainwater and gave it a good going-over as part of her rounds.

The owner of the work has told the museum to leave the newly denuded piece in place while loss adjusters calculate the value of the damage.

The prospect of a restoration by the artist is slim, since Kippenberger died in 1997. The substitution of an actual puddle of rainwater would, clearly, completely destroy the integrity of the work.

A spokeswoman for the museum told the Associated Press that the cleaning firm hired by the museum had clear instructions to keep at least 8cm away from the artwork.

It is therefore it was a mystery why the unidentified operative managed to mistake the carefully crafted water stain under the trough, beneath the pile of timber, as anything other than a groundbreaking late 20th century installation by a man know for his sharp-witted irony.

Kippenberger, a native of Dortmund, was described by in a New York Times obituary as "one of the most talented German artists of his generation".

Apart from the now damaged work, he is particularly remembered for his 1 meter high scuplture of a crucified frog, title "Feet First", which was decried by the Church in Germany as sacrilegious but was in actuality a self-portrait of the artist in a profound state of crisis.

In 1986, during a trip to Brazil, Kippenberger bought a gas station, which he groundbreakingly renamed the "Martin Bormann Gas station". ®

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