Elderly woman mistakenly fills in €80,000 artwork after mistaking it for a crossword

The 91-year-old woman became confused because many other exhibits in the museum were interactive

Crossword, Museum, exhibit, Arthur Koepcke, Nuremberg Neues Museum


What’s a four-letter word used as an expletive when you mess something up? That’s what one 91-year-old German woman needed after finding out that the crossword she came across in a museum. Filling in some solutions, she was later stunned when told it was a piece of artwork valued at €80,000.

Reading Work Piece, created in 1965 by the avant-garde artist Arthur Koepcke, features a crossword puzzle design and the phrase ‘Insert Words!’. Koepcke’s artwork features many blank spaces where the words need to be filled in, as well as several answers added by the artist.

The woman took the instructions literally, later claiming that she had become confused because many other exhibits in the Nuremberg Neues Museum had an interactive element.

The woman was visiting the museum as part of a senior citizens group outing.

The museum’s director Eva-Christina Kraus has confirmed that due to insurance reasons, the Bavarian museum has had no choice but to file a criminal case against the woman, but that the museum understands there was no malicious intent behind her actions.

“It’s clear to us that the older lady didn’t mean any harm,” Kraus said.

Police investigators will now make inquiries into damage made to the artwork and the museum is putting together a plan for its restoration.

Arthur Koepcke was part of the Fluxus art movement, famous for combining different media and disciplines, like poetry, visual art and design.

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