German museum worker fired after hanging his own art in gallery

Apr 11, 2024, 6:04 AM

General view of the installation from artist Victor Ehikhamenor at the Pinakothek der Moderne on Ma...

General view of the installation from artist Victor Ehikhamenor at the Pinakothek der Moderne on May 21, 2021 in Munich, Germany. (Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

MUNICH, Germany — For a brief moment, one German man achieved his dream: his artwork hanging in a famous museum.

But just hours later, the aspiring artist’s hopes for his big break were dimmed when his stunt instead landed him in big trouble with his employer – and the police.

The 51-year-old exhibition technician and self-proclaimed “freelance artist” smuggled one of his paintings into the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Germany, on February 26 and hung it on a wall in one of the galleries, according to German tabloid Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Munich police. After security discovered the newest addition to the museum’s collections, they promptly took down the display and the man was fired.

Because of his employment at the museum, the man had access to the premises outside of normal opening hours and no one noticed him put up the picture. It is unknown how long the painting, which measured 60 centimeters by 1.2 meters (23.6 inches by 47.2 inches), was on the wall, but the museum’s press spokesperson said it was likely not there for long.

“The supervisors notice something like this immediately,” Tine Nehler told Süddeutsche Zeitung. She noted that she did not know what the painting depicted. The Pinakothek der Moderne did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The incident also caught the attention of the police, who told CNN that the man was under investigation for damage to property, a crime which could carry a fine or a prison sentence of up to two years if he is convicted.

“We have of course initiated criminal charges. This means that the public prosecutor’s office will now decide what happens,” Christian Drexler, chief superintendent of the Munich Police, told CNN. “But it’s up to the judiciary to decide in each individual case.”

The painting “was attached to an exhibition wall with two screws, which is why this exhibition wall was damaged and the Munich criminal investigation department is now investigating the damage to property caused by the drill holes,” Drexler added. “The total damage is estimated at around €100 ($107). The picture has since been removed and confiscated.”

Just after workers discovered the painting, the man emailed the museum confessing his actions, writing that “as a freelance artist, he has now hung his own picture [on the wall],” Drexler told CNN. Security then reported him to the Munich police.

The man was banned from the museum as part of his termination agreement, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

A similar incident occurred several weeks ago at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn, Germany, where a student hung one of her paintings on an exhibition wall with double-sided tape, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported. Staff only noticed the painting when they dismantled the exhibition and saw there was an extra piece of art.

This museum, however, reacted more humorously. They wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “We think it’s funny & would like to get to know the artist. So get in touch! There will be no trouble. Word of honor.”

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German museum worker fired after hanging his own art in gallery