Museum Staff Horrified as Elderly Visitor ‘Solves’ Crossword Artwork

Always remember to look, but don't touch.

Neues Museum, Nürnberg. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Staff at the Neues Museum Nürnberg, in southern Germany, were shocked and horrified when they discovered that a 91-year-old visitor had “solved” a crossword puzzle featured in an artwork hanging in the museum.

The elderly woman, identified as Hannelore K., damaged the work by using a ball-point pen to fill out the blank boxes in a work by German Fluxus artist Arthur Köpcke, museum spokesperson Eva Martin told German press agency DPA on Thursday.

It seems that the local woman took the artist’s invitation to “Insert words!” far too literally. Shortly afterward, the retired dentist was escorted to the local police station for questioning.

The seven fellow members of the literary club of a local senior center, which organized the trip to the museum, heavily criticized the institution and the police for what they described as ill treatment of Ms. K., accusing them of treating their friend like criminal. She was “treated awfully,” course director Gerlinde Knopp told Nordbayern.

Club members were particularly upset about the authorities’ suggestion that their friend, whom they describe as enviably fit both physically and mentally, suffered from dementia.

Martin denied that Ms. K was poorly treated.

“There were probably no ill intentions,” Martin said, “but we have to report the damage.” She added that it was not normally in her nature to call the police on an elderly woman, but she had no choice but to follow protocol and file a criminal complaint.

The museum indicated that the artwork is under evaluation by the restoration department; the extent of the damage remains unclear but it was revealed that the insurance value of the work lies at €80,000 ($89,000).


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