Employee Quietly Sneaks His Own Painting Onto the Walls of a German Museum

After discovering the stunt, the ​​Pinakothek der Moderne fired the staffer and reported the crime to the police

Pinakothek der Moderne
The Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Germany, has more than 20,000 works in its collection. Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images

For most aspiring artists, getting work onto the walls of prominent museums takes time, patience and talent. But for one German museum employee, all it took was a few screws.

On February 26, a technician smuggled his own painting into Munich’s Pinakothek der Moderne and hung it on a gallery wall. According to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the 51-year-old man believed it would be his “artistic breakthrough.” Instead, he may be facing prison time.

“The employee considers himself as an artist and most likely saw his role in the museum’s installation team as a day job to support his true calling,” a spokesperson for the museum tells the Guardian’s Philip Oltermann.

The Pinakothek der Moderne features famous artists such as Pablo PicassoWassily KandinskyPaul Klee and Andy Warhol. Its collection of 20,000 works is one of the largest in Germany.

Due to the nature of his job, the man was able to access the gallery even when it was closed. He snuck his painting into the museum while he was helping install an exhibition on architecture and philanthropy.

“He was carrying tools, that’s why he went totally unnoticed,” Tine Nehler, a museum spokesperson, tells the New York Times’ Christopher F. Schuetze. “As a technician, he was able to move around all areas of the building outside of opening hours.”

Museum officials haven’t given a description of the painting but noted it measured around 24 by 47 inches. The man attached the painting to the exhibition wall with two screws, leaving behind drill holes. Per the Guardian, staffers quickly noticed something was awry. They left the work in place until the end of the day.

“The total damage is estimated at around €100 ($107). The picture has since been removed and confiscated,” Christian Drexler, chief superintendent of the Munich Police, tells CNN’s Emily Blumenthal and Chris Stern.

A few weeks ago, a similar incident occurred at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn, Germany, when a student used double-sided tape to stick one of her paintings onto a gallery wall. Staffers didn’t notice the painting until they dismantled the exhibition it was hanging in. “We think it’s funny and we want to get to know the artist,” wrote the museum in a translated post on X (formerly Twitter). “So get in touch! There’s no trouble. Word of honor.”

Unfortunately, for the aspiring artist in Munich, officials are taking a less lighthearted approach. According to Drexler, the employee confessed his actions via email after the painting was discovered. The museum then fired the artist and reported his actions to the police. He is under investigation for property damage—and if he is convicted, he could face up to two years in prison, per CNN.

This outcome is likely not the “artistic breakthrough” the man envisioned. While museum officials aren’t commenting on the quality of the artwork, a spokesperson tells the Guardian that they “did not receive any positive feedback on the addition from visitors to the gallery.”

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