An $89,000 piece of avant garde artwork was mistaken for a real crossword puzzle and filled in by a 91 year-old retiree in a Nuremburg art museum.
Gerlinde Knopp, who was leading the excursion, said the museum was also full of interactive art, making it easy to lose sight of what one could and could not do there…
The woman had no malicious intent and the art piece was restored, but something else very interesting has happened here. As art becomes more abstract and ugly, it begins to look less like a product of effort, skill, and inspiration and more like a self-conscious expression within a society. This artist was trying to be ironic by deliberately choosing to create, sell, and display, in a museum, an image that is actually printed millions of times a day in newspapers around the world and probably already exists in every living room or driveway, but the whole thing is ironic only within this context. People going to a museum to look at something so mundane and common is only ironic when they expected to see art.
When the context was changed and the crossword art was displayed among many other interactive exhibits, it reverted back to its original purpose- a crossword puzzle to be marked up rather than preserved and admired. This is completely logical when art itself lacks beauty and has no intrinsic value or affect outside of its original context. Playing off of preexisting social conditions and expectations is an easier way to evoke thought or emotion from a public already overstimulated by Michael Bay CG explosions and Avatar in 3D.
When a piece of art represents a reaction to society, the choices made and the decision process of the artist become the subject. That means making art that still has an impact doesn’t necessarily require great skill, discipline, or creativity. This is how art has continued to exist alongside the much more visually impressive creations of computer graphics and other forms of media. The style and intent of the artist can replace substance, so the work itself is allowed to be, and often is, unimpressive. Take for example, the prankster who left a pair of glasses on the floor of a San Francisco museum to be mistaken for a genuine art exhibit, drawing a crowd and photographs. The prank itself stirs more emotion than a lost pair of glasses and the same is true for this scenario. I am amused by the fact that an elderly woman mistook an art exhibit for what it literally is, but I was even more amused that the modern art “experts” working at the museum failed to foresee this level of irony.