Austrian Museum Fires Man for Rubbing Urine on Himself

Marcel Duchamp's 1917 Fountain.

The Belvedere museum in Austria, which owns Gustav Klimt’s iconic The Kiss (1907/1908) painting has fired one of its attendants for using urine to clean his hands and face, the Associated Press reports.

The man in question is Alfred Zoppelt, a 23-year veteran of the museum, whose termination letter stated, “[Y]ou regularly rub urine into your skin, particularly the face and hands… [Y]ou soil your place of work … and threaten the health of your co-workers.”

“I showed a colleague a DVD about urine therapy,” Mr. Zoppelt said in a statement to Austrian media. “After that he said I was fired.” The AP notes that some people believe drinking urine or rubbing it on one’s skin has medicial and cosmetic benefits. This has not been confirmed scientifically.

Since we’re on the topic, The Observer presents the following list of our five favorite urine-related artworks:

1. David Hammons, Pissed Off, 1981
The famously reclusive artist urinated on the side of a Richard Serra sculpture in downtown Manhattan and was arrested for public urination.

2. Andy Warhol, Oxidation Painting, 1977-78
The Pop artist urinated–and had assistants urinate–on canvases primed with copper paint, creating a remarkable effect. One sold at Christie’s in 2008 for $1.89 million.

3. James Ensor, The Pisser, 1887
In this lovely etching, the Belgian master portrays a top-hatted gentleman peeing on a graffiti-tagged wall, his back turned away from the viewer.

4. Sherrie Levine, Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp), 1991
While Marcel Duchamp’s original Fountain (1917) may be the smarter pick historically, it’s hard to beat the color and luster of Ms. Levine’s version of the work.

5. Andres Serrano, Piss Christ, 1989
One of Senator Jesse Helms’ least favorite artworks, this photograph shows Jesus on a cross, floating in urine. We’re actually not huge fans of this work, but it is Mr. Serrano’s birthday today.

For a very thorough look at the history of urine-related art we recommend this thoughtful essay by Christopher Chapman, titled “Piss Art.” Austrian Museum Fires Man for Rubbing Urine on Himself