A Reverse Art Heist? Museum Finds Employee’s Painting on Its Wall

Sometimes getting your art displayed at one of Europe’s finer museums is just a matter of hanging it there yourself.

On Monday, the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich reported a reverse heist of sorts: While it was closed to the public, an employee hung one of his own paintings among the museum’s modern art collection.

The employee, who is 51, was helping to install an architecture exhibit on philanthropy that opened recently when he took a detour to the modern art floor to make the addition, according to the museum.

“He was carrying tools, that’s why he went totally unnoticed,” said Tine Nehler, a museum spokeswoman. “As a technician, he was able to move around all areas of the building outside of opening hours.”

Unfortunately for the worker’s burgeoning art career, the ruse was discovered and the painting was removed from the wall. It was not clear how long the painting had hung unnoticed.

The museum said the artwork was about 45 inches wide and 25 inches in length, but it did not say what it depicted or provide any details about the worker’s artistic background.

The museum and the worker agreed to part ways, the museum said. The man, a well-respected employee that the museum did not identify, was also banned from visiting his old workplace, the museum added.

“You can’t really have a person like that guarding the high-security wing,” Ms. Nehler said.

Adding to the aspiring artist’s troubles, the police said on Wednesday that they were investigating him for property damage — for drilling two small holes in the museum wall to hang his painting.

The Pinakothek der Moderne has one of Germany’s largest art collections, with more than 20,000 pieces of art, including works by prominent artists like Max Beckmann and Pablo Picasso. Besides the architectural and modern art sections, is known for its large modern-design section.

The incident in Munich uncovered this week followed a similar discovery in October at a museum in the western city of Bonn, where someone had hung their own artwork in an exhibition on identity and immigration. It was only when that exhibition was being dismantled that the painting was noticed.

Unlike in this week’s case, the museum, the Bundeskunsthalle, posted a picture of the painting on its Instagram feed, identified the artist as Danai Emmanouilidis and helped advertise the sale of the work.

The piece, entitled “Georgia,” was sold for just over $4,000, which the artist donated to charity.

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