Arts Arts Features Muse

Waste not want not

In light of Goldshmied & Chiari's accidentally binned exhibition, Isabelle Scott asks why we throw our art away

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Image: Goldschmeid & Chiari
Image: Goldschmeid & Chiari

Yet another art installation falls prey to unknowing cleaners and their hoovers. Following an event at the Museion art gallery in Bolzano two weeks ago, the cleaners arrived and mistakenly threw away a modern art piece filling one of the rooms. The installation reconstructed the aftermath of an extravagant party, complete with numerous empty bottles of expensive champagne, confetti, fallen banners and cigarette butts scattered across the floor.

The installment was entitled We Were Going to Dance Tonight and was created by Goldschmied & Chiari as a satire against the lavish parties thrown by the Italian political classes during the 1980s. Inspiration was taken from a guide to nightclubs written by Gianni de Michelia, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs in Italy.

The gallery's curator, Letizia Ragalia, 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."
Art is unsuccessful if there is no challenge to uncover its worth

For the cleaners, it seems an honest mistake (clearing away after a party is in their job description) but this isn't the first time that modern art has been accidentally chucked in the bin. What's 'rubbish' about modern art?

In 2001, art gallery bosses had to rescue a piece by Damien Hirst after cleaners threw it away. The artwork represented a messy studio, full of empty bottles and ashtrays. Three years later, a bag of paper and cardboard by German artist Gustav Metzger was also thrown out while on display at Tate Britain.

One assumption is often that the general public just don't 'get' it, or that without context the objects remain mundane or meaningless. In any other space the same objects of cigarette ends and glass bottles are, quite literally, rubbish, but when placed in galleries their value is altered. The seemingly broken, old or used objects are given meaning and purpose.

A modern art piece is not necessarily unsuccessful if the viewer does not see its worth, it is unsuccessful if there is no challenge to uncover its worth. The importance lies in the viewer-object relationship and the way in which we encounter objects that subvert our usual assumptions and measures of value.

That Goldschmied & Chiari's scene was to be found in an art gallery and was ridiculously over the top, would point to the fact that it is an installation, but the fact that it is still confusing its audience is its success.

This is something previously explained by the city marketing commissioner, Antonio Maria Vasile, after a cleaner threw away a Sala Murat artwork last year, costing around £10,000.

Vasile said, "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."

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