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Arthur Koepcke’s “Reading-Work Piece” (1965) at Nuremberg’s Neues Museum, filled in with words in ink by a visitor (screenshot via Bryan Herbert on Twitter)

A 91-year-old woman who has been under investigation after she filled out the blank spaces on a museum’s ~$88,468 crossword puzzle artwork in ballpoint pen is now claiming copyright of the work.

“Reading-Work Piece,” a 1965 work by avant-garde artist Arthur Koepcke, affiliated with the Fluxus movement, is installed at the Nuremberg’s Neues Museum in Germany. It looks like a partially filled-in crossword puzzle on newsprint, and next to it hangs a sign that reads “Insert words.” When police approached the unidentified nonagenarian, writing in pen on the artwork, she told them she was simply following instructions, Suddeutsche Zeitung reported.

“The lady told us she had taken the notes as an invitation to complete the crossword,” a police spokesman said. Part of a group visit to the Neues Museum, the woman suggested the museum put up a sign telling visitors not to take “insert words” literally if they didn’t want people writing on the artwork.

Gerlinde Knopp, who was leading a senior citizen group visit, said the museum was filled with interactive art, which confused the woman.

“We do realize that the old lady didn’t mean any harm,” Eva Kraus, museum director, told the Telegraph. “Nevertheless, as a state museum couldn’t avoid making a criminal complaint.”

The woman’s additions have since been removed, and she and her lawyer are arguing she owns the copyright to the altered version that has been destroyed. In a seven-page brief, the lawyer argues that the woman’s contribution not only made the original artwork more valuable but carried the impulse of a Fluxus artist.

But all of this overlooks the pensioner’s more serious crime to begin with: Filling out a crossword puzzle in pen.

h/t Suddeutsche Zeitung 

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.

7 replies on “Woman Fills in Crossword Puzzle Artwork and Claims Copyright”

  1. I like this back-striking of the Granny. The funny thing is, according German Copyright you only may modify artworks with exclusive rights granted by the artist him/herself. And Arthur Kröpcke wrot explicitelly over his cross-wort element “insert words!”, so it can be seen as a direct appelation of an Fluxus artist to Fluxus viewers (think back on the philosophy of George Maciunas, who quoted the modus operandi of Russian constructisvists “bring art into life”).

    I analyzed btw. this case comparing with Beuys case (in German):

  2. Ink is the only medium to use when filling in a crossword puzzle these days – pencil strokes can’t be read easily on cheap newsprint.

  3. By using pen she proved her decision making was more indellible
    than something easily erased. Her interaction extended the intent of the
    original. Almost like a reversed ‘Erased DeKooning’!

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