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ROME — They say that art is in the eye of the beholder — and in the case of this cleaner, the installation was garbage. Literally.
The Museion Bozen-Bolzano museum in northern Italy said a cleaner mistook empty bottles of champagne, cigarette butts, colorful confetti and pieces of clothing scattered around one of its exhibition rooms for mess left behind by partygoers at an event.
"The cleaner was new, and was asked to clean up the room where we held a book presentation the night before," the museum's director Letizia Ragaglia told NBC News. "When she saw all the bottles of champagne in the foyer, she thought that must have been the right room."
Instead, she "cleaned up" an installation by artists Sara Goldschmied and Eleonora Chiari called "Where shall we go dancing tonight," which the museum's website says is meant to represent hedonism, consumerism and financial speculation in the 1980s Italian political scene.
Luckily, the cleaner was environmentally minded.
"She placed everything in the recycling bins, so we could retrieve most of the items — minus 30 bottles of champagne — and could recreate the installation from scratch," Ragaglia added.
Vittorio Sgarbi, one of Italy's most popular art critics, said the cleaner "was right" to throw the installation in the trash.
"If she thought it was rubbish, it means it was. Art should be understood by everyone — including cleaners,” Sgarbi told NBC News. “The fact that the museum could simply pick the pieces from the trash bin and put them back together shows you that wasn’t art in the first place.”
The Museion Bozen-Bolzano incident isn't the first time cleaners in Italy have mistaken art for trash.
In February 2014, a cleaner at the Murat Hall in Bari thought the chunks of cardboard and newspapers that filled the room were left behind by workers preparing an exhibition rather than a valuable piece of art.