Photo/IllutrationA large painting by acclaimed artist Keiji Usami, which used to be displayed on the wall of a cafeteria at the University of Tokyo, shot in 2016 (Provided by a faculty member of the University of Tokyo)

The University of Tokyo Co-op got an "F" in art appreciation after admitting that it trashed a large artwork by an acclaimed Japanese painter that had been hanging in a cafeteria for decades, not realizing its value.

The co-op, which operates school stores and cafeterias, posted an apology and an explanation on its website on May 8.

“We deeply regret that we did not realize the significance of losing a valuable cultural asset,” the statement read.

Titled “Kizuna” (bond), the work was produced by the late Keiji Usami, who represented Japan at the famed Venice Biennale in 1972.

The 4-meter-tall painting had been displayed on the wall of an underground cafeteria in front of Yasuda Kodo hall. However, the co-op had come under scrutiny in recent months when the disappearance of the painting came to light after the refurbishment of the cafeteria in March.

According to the co-op, it and the university discussed the preservation of the massive painting, which the co-op held legal ownership, ahead of the renovation of the cafeteria.

Then, technical issues to remove the painting, which was affixed to a wall, were raised and the co-op discarded the artwork in September 2017.

The co-op said it neglected to consult any technical specialists or art experts over the handling of the artwork, and “failed to explore ways of removal and preservation work that were, in fact, possible.”