Janitor destroys over 60 paintings at Art Academy

A disgruntled janitor or a group of janitors from the famous Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (Düsseldorf Academy of Art) destroyed more than 60 works of art, the Rhine post (PR). For most of the canvases, many pieces were slashed with a knife and trampled on to break their stretchers. They were then thrown into a dumpster in the courtyard of the academy.

Understandably, the students whose work has been ransacked are outraged. “The whole situation is extremely emotional,” their chosen representative, Sabrina Straub, told the PR. Many destroyed works had not yet been evaluated by the students’ teachers. Others had to be sold.

The director of the Kunstakademie responds

Given the still illustrious careers of alumni of the academy – including some of Germany’s most cherished, such as Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke, Günther Uecker and Thomas Schütte, as well as recent star David Ostrowski – l he long-term economic impact of the destruction could be in the millions. (For the sake of the author, we hope that none of current Professor Peter Doig’s works fell into the fray.)

Rita McBride.
Photo: Via: conaculta.gob.mx.

The director of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Rita McBride, was also upset by the incident. “It’s just terrible for the students,” she told the newspaper. “Works are irreplaceable. However, in a letter to the academy’s student body, the administration’s contrition was more measured. It said, “Affected members of the housekeeping staff have been made aware of their flawed approach,” in this matter.

Reasons for the incident

Although the exact culprit or culprits for the destruction of the works remain unknown, their motivation quickly became apparent. For years, students were allowed to store finished works in the corridors of Kunstakademie buildings due to insufficient storage facilities. However, due to recently tightened fire regulations, a maximum of two weeks was imposed on how long work could be left there.

In the past, works that had been left in the hallways for long periods of time were brought to the yard at predetermined times for students to collect. In this case, however, it seems the janitorial staff wanted to make an example of some chronic offenders – not coincidentally some of the academy’s most productive students – and started cutting.

Almost unbelievably, the administration tried to put a positive spin on the incident. McBride told the RP: “Maybe we needed this to happen.” If this was a misguided and unsolicited attempt to give students a dose of discipline, it failed. Seeing the trashed art, many took the works back to the hallways.

Kunstakademie DüsseldorfPhoto: Wiegels via Wikimedia Commons

Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
Photo: Wiegels via Wikimedia Commons.

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Mildred D. Field