91-Year-Old Woman at Museum Fills In Crossword-Themed Artwork - Atlas Obscura
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91-Year-Old Woman at Museum Fills In Crossword-Themed Artwork

What is art, anyway?

A different lady filling out a different crossword.

A different lady filling out a different crossword. (Photo: Nicolas Winspeare/CC BY 2.0)

Our culture is full of conflicting instructions. “Always follow directions,” we say. “Don’t draw on art that is clearly on display in a museum,” we say, directly after that.

But what happens when those two edicts don’t match? Earlier this week, at the Neues Museum in Nuremberg, a 91-year-old woman on a senior citizen excursion came across one of Arthur Koepcke’s “Reading-Work-Pieces“—collages that feature, in the words of one gallery, “picture puzzles, tests… and instructions for perfectly simple everyday actions.” This particular piece had a section that looked like a crossword puzzle, and the written command “Insert Words.” So she took out a ballpoint pen and went for it, the BBC reports.

The woman, whose identity has not been released, joins a rich lineage of well-meaning art “improvers”—most notably Cecilia Giménez, the 85-year-old who, in 2012, turned a fresco of Jesus into a hedgehog man via a botched restoration attempt.

As this newest accidental avant-gardeist pointed out to the police, the museum “had not put up a notice instructing visitors not to write on the piece,” the BBC writes. Which begs the question: how would we know whether or not that was art?

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