It’s not always easy to recognize a work of contemporary art.
A few years ago I visited the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami. There was a very cool minimalist art installation set behind “Caution” tape, to one side of a large hall: a step ladder, bucket and mop, a neatly folded tarp and paint can and brushes. Of course, it turned out to be an actual work project!
Earlier this year, a cleaning woman at an exhibition in Bari, Italy, mistook parts of an art installation for garbage and threw them away.
In 2001, a Damien Hirst installation in a London gallery was cleaned up by a janitor; it featured ashtrays, empty coffee cups and other detritus. Hirst had set it out earlier that evening during the launch party of his latest exhibition. The befuddled cleaner said: "As soon as I clapped eyes on it I sighed because there was so much mess. I didn't think for a second that it was a work of art - it didn't look much like art to me. So I cleared it all into bin-bags and dumped it."
If it needs a sign explaining that it’s art … is it art? Just because a famous artist had a hand in its creation … is it art? If one person says it’s art … does that make it art?