a tale of a few cities

Help a poor girl out…

The artwork, entitled When It Starts Dripping From The Ceiling, consists of a trough under a wooden tower of slats. Photograph: Bernd Thissen/EPA


An overzealous cleaner in Germany has ruined a piece of modern art worth over $1,000,000 after mistaking it for an eyesore that needed a good scrub.

The sculpture by the German artist Martin Kippenberger, widely regarded as one of the most talented artists of his generation until his death in 1997, had been on loan to the Ostwall Museum in Dortmund when it fell prey to the cleaner’s scouring pad.

The work, called When It Starts Dripping From the Ceiling (Wenn’s anfängt durch die Decke zu tropfen), comprised a rubber trough placed underneath a rickety wooden tower made from slats. Inside the trough, Kippenberger had spread a layer of paint representing dried rainwater. He thought it was art: the cleaner saw it as a challenge, and set about making the bucket look like new.

A spokeswoman for the museum told German media that the female cleaner “removed the patina from the four walls of the trough”.

“It is now impossible to return it to its original state,” she said, adding that it had been on loan to the museum from a private collector and was valued by insurers at €800,000 (1,103,400.00 USD).

She said that cleaning crews had been told to keep 20cm (8in) away from artworks, but it was unclear if the woman – who worked for a company to which cleaning had been outsourced – had received the memo. After reading the above in The Guardian, I was reminded of an article I’d read a couple of years ago about an ‘in demand’ contemporary art restorer.

The Ostwall Museum spokeswoman needn’t get her knickers in a knot, it just so happens that the 2nd sentence into The Art Doctor, an article that appeared in the May 11, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, there is mention of another damaged artwork by Martin Kippenberger and after further reading, its repair. Christian Scheidemann, a conservator of contemporary art who runs a company called Contemporary Conservation has repaired contemporary works by artist as diverse and challenging as Takashi Murakami, Rudolf Stingel, Wifredo Lam, and Paul McCarthy. A few years ago, Scheidemann had to trim a new piece of elephant dung to fill a gap in a Chris Ofili painting.

Dear overzealous (and no-less traumatized) outsourced cleaner, refer the museum to Christian Scheidemann at www.contemporaryconservation.com 

Readers, if you’ve time enough, give the lowly cleaning woman some slack and forward this post to mo@stadtdo.de with ‘Seien Sie gütig zur Dame der macht das Reinigen‘ in the subject line. 

Gnome or Genome? The May 30th New Yorker Cover Art Begs The Question

Posted in Art, flora and fauna, illustration, new yorker, The Muses by petercombe on June 3, 2011

The May 30 cover of the New Yorker by Brooklyn, NY, based illustrator Peter de Seve, led me to believe that the art work was a sly and topical commentary on the deregulation of genetically altered foods in the market place today. I always look beneath the New Yorker’s table of contents to read the cover artwork’s title, often a witty play on words. I thought the placement of the ‘gnome’ to be a clever and symbolic use of wordplay, a reference to ‘genome’. Much to my surprise the art work was simply titled ‘Small Growers‘ with no reference to genome or GMO’s. Perhaps The Muses hijacked the artist’s creative process and coerced de Seves to produce this pictorially haunting double entendre.

Posted in new yorker by petercombe on November 20, 2009

New Yorker Caption Contest, #171

Posted in caption contest, new yorker by petercombe on November 25, 2008



‘It’s Vanessa Beecroft’s latest – things will be back to normal next week.’

New Yorker Caption Contest #170

Posted in caption contest, new yorker by petercombe on November 18, 2008

My caption, contest #170, November 24, 2008

“It’s a Judith Leiber.”

New Yorker Caption Contest, #169

Posted in caption contest, new yorker by petercombe on November 10, 2008


“I’m trying to find the right Cavalli bag.”

New Yorker Caption Contest #168

Posted in caption contest, new yorker by petercombe on November 9, 2008


“I haven’t been here since I switched deodorants”

New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest

Posted in caption contest, new yorker by petercombe on November 9, 2008

Had I not missed the contest’s entry date – I would have submitted the following caption;



“I’m so happy to have found another Hervé Leger fan.”

New Yorker Caption Contest

Posted in caption contest, new yorker by petercombe on September 26, 2008

“His hiss is much worse than his bite.”

This week’s contest was really hard. I submitted it anyway.

…napping on the phone

Posted in Art, new yorker by petercombe on September 19, 2008

Incase my September 17th New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest entry was lost on any tale of a few cities visitors…

Salvador DALÍ
Spain 1904 – 1989
United States of America 1940-48           

Lobster telephone [Aphrodisiac telephone] 1936
painted plaster, telephone
18.0 (h) x 30.5 (w) x 12.5 (d) cm
not signed, not dated    


Purchased 1994 Salvador Dalí produced two of the most hilarious objects spawned by the Surrealist movement, his Lobster telephone 1936 and Mae West lips sofa 1937. Both objects were commissioned from the artist by the English poet and collector Edward James (1907-1984), a wealthy and eccentric patron who had inherited a vast English estate and fortune at the age of five, and who has been aptly described as ‘virtually a present-day adumbration of the mad Ludwig of Bavaria, capaciously rich and richly capricious, only a little less than Ludwig in wealth and eccentricity.’ A leading supporter of the Surrealists, James financed the early issues of the great Surrealist magazine Minotaure, and was also an active patron of the Belgian artist René Magritte, whom he met through Dalí. James spent a small fortune on Dalí himself, and eventually owned between forty and fifty of his best works, all from the 1930s (his greatest period).        

Inspired by Dalí, Edward James proceeded in the 1930s to turn his country manor into a fantasy palace filled with every kind of strange and exotic object. As well as placing three of Dalí’s sofas in the shape of Mae West’s lips into his living quarters, James asked Dalí to ‘make-over’ his telephones as well. Dali suggested that James fill his rooms with what he called ‘The surrealist object – one that is absolutely useless from the practical and rational point of view, created wholly for the purpose of materialising in a fetishistic way, with the maximum of tangible reality, ideas and fantasies having a delirious character.’ He then conceived a truly unforgettable object, his irresistibly playful lobster perched atop a phone, which was also called the Aphrodisiac telephone at the time, a title in keeping with Dalí’s wicked sense of humour and desire to baffle his public completely.

Dalí’s Lobster telephone was not ‘absolutely useless’, however, but was in fact a perfectly functioning telephone. Edward James purchased four Lobster telephones from Dalí, with which he replaced all the original phones in his country retreat. One of these (a partial reconstruction) is now in the collection of the Tate Gallery, London; the second is housed at the German Telephone Museum (Deutsches Postmuseum) in Frankfurt; the third is owned by the Edward James Foundation, London. The fourth original Lobster telephone (which is in the same perfect condition as it was in James’ house) is now in the National Gallery of Australia.

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