A 91-year-old woman has been questioned by police in Germany — after she filled in the blanks in a piece of modern art based on a crossword puzzle.
The pensioner, who has not been named under German privacy law, was questioned under caution after she filled in the work valued at €80,000 (£67,000) with a biro.
“Reading-work-piece”, a 1977 work by Arthur Köpcke of the Fluxus movement, essentially looks like an empty crossword puzzle.
Next to the work is a sign which reads: “Insert words”.
The hapless pensioner explained to police that she was simply following the instructions.
“The lady told us she had taken the notes as an invitation to complete the crossword,” a police spokesman said.
The elderly lady was part of a group visit to Nuremberg’s Neues Museum, where the work is displayed.
If the musuem didn’t want people to follow the artist’s instructions, they should put up a sign to make that clear, she told police.
Eva Kraus, the museum director, said the damage was not permanent and would probably be relatively easy to repair.
“We do realize that the old lady didn’t mean any harm,” she said. “Nevertheless, as a state museum couldn’t avoid making a criminal complaint. Also for insurance reasons we had to report the incident to the police.”
The private collector who presented the work to the musuem took the incident in good humour, she said.
Restoring the work is expected to cost a few hundred euros and the musuem will bear the expense, she said.
The work was presented to the musuem by a private collector.
“We will let the lady know that the collector took the damage to the work in good humour, so she doesn’t have a sleepless night,” Ms Kraus said.
The museum said that in future it would alter the label for the work to make it clear visitors were not permitted to fill in the blanks.
* * *