Did a Gallery Worker Mistake an Art Installation for Trash?

Claim

A maintenance worker at an Italian gallery mistakenly left an art installation to be picked up as trash.

Rating

True

Reporting

An odd story from February 2014 involving a $14,000 art installation and an unwitting maintenance worker that first gained attention online through the use of Tumblr saw new life in August 2019 after being shared widely on Facebook.

Italian media first reported that the unidentified worker at the Sala Murat gallery in Bari, Italy mistakenly left the installation — works made using cardboard, discarded cookie pieces, and crumpled newspaper — by artist Paul Branca for local sanitation to pick up.

“I thought they were garbage,” she was quoted as saying at the time. Her employers defended her, however, saying that she was “just doing her job.” Likewise, city officials apologized for the confusion but said that insurance would pay for any damage done to Branca’s work.

The story was picked up by news outlets both by European news outlets and American web sites such as Gawker, and further spread in March 2014 on Tumblr, where a post recounting the mishap was shared widely alongside a picture of Gawker’s story.

The BBC also pointed out that what happened in Sala Murat was not unheard of:

In 2001, a Damien Hirst installation at London’s Eyestorm Gallery consisting of a collection of beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays was cleared away.

Later, in 2004, a bag of paper and cardboard by German artist Gustav Metzger was also thrown out while on a display at Tate Britain.

On 10 August 2019, a Facebook page dedicated to screen captures of Tumblr posts revived the story. This most recent post had been shared more than 7,000 times on the platform to date.