Controversial Art Pieces That Shocked The World
THE RAFT OF THE MEDUSA
Theodore Gericault took advantage of his chance to scandalize Paris by giving the French a painting of the survivors of a shipwreck. That this was an actual contemporary event, and not an incident out of ancient Greece, and that the survivors struggled through starvation, cannibalism and insanity on their voyage, were too much for the time.
CAMPBELL’S SOUP 1
Andy Warhol stayed away from the grand themes that occupied painters through the ages. He focused on the mundane, like the Campbell’s Soup can that was one of his earliest pieces of “pop art.”
His first pop works were in fact used as backdrops in a department store window. It was only when things moved to an art gallery that people asked if soup cans were a fitting subject for art.
LE DÉJEUNER SUR L’HERBE
Edouard Manet exhibited “The Luncheon on the Grass” in 1863 and immediately scandalized Paris. It was not the painting’s departure from the style of the time that caused the fuss, although Manet’s style was less realistic than the fashion of the time, nor was it the naked woman lunching in a Paris park. Instead, it was the fact that two fully clothed men accompanied the naked woman.
PORTRAIT OF MADAME X
Viewed through today’s eyes, John Singer Sargent’s “Portrait of Madame X” seems an unlikely cause for scandal. When it was shown in 1884, though, it caused quite the uproar. Madame X was in fact a well-known personality, and the painting was viewed as sexually suggestive in the extreme. It seems that the lady was painted with one strap of her gown fallen from her shoulder.
If that strap was not enough, the excessively pink earlobe, apparently an indicator of unbridled carnality, revealed the true horror behind the art.
Jackson Pollock’s work falls squarely into “my kid could do better” territory. The viewing public had a hard time seeing a bunch of random drips and splashes as a work of art, no matter what the critics said.
NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE NO. 2
Marcel Duchamp’s 1912 painting was one of the very first abstract works in a world of realistic painting. It is a fragmented look at its subject, depicting a series of movements superimposed on one another and reduced to geometric shapes. When Duchamp first tried to show it in Paris, he was told to change its title or, failing that, to take it home. He took it home. A year later, he was allowed to show the work in New York, and the public was outraged.
In 1917, Duchamp was on the board of the Society of Independent Artists, and they were having a show at which they promised to display everything that was submitted. Duchamp was inspired to visit his local plumbing supply house, where he purchased a urinal, stood it on end, signed it “R. Mutt” and called it a day. When he hauled it down to the show, the authorities hid it from view.
THE PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY OF DEATH IN THE MIND OF SOMEONE LIVING
Damien Hirst specializes in work that gets attention. “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” consists of a shark preserved in formaldehyde inside a rectangular glass case. Hirst has moved on to pickled sheep and sliced cows, but the shark was where it all began and it is still the object of anger and contempt. After all, if the shark is art, what about the stuffed bass hanging on the wall?
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD
Damien Hirst, again, this time with a human skull replicated in platinum and covered with over 8,000 diamonds. It was certainly controversial, not least because of the asking price of $100 million. There was no sale.
Guest Post by You Are Art
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