You Call That Art? The Top 5 Most Ridiculous Works of “Art”

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If you ask a hundred people for a definition of “art,” you will get a hundred different answers. There is no single definition of what makes for great art, nor can it be definitively stated what makes a specific piece great. This is so because one’s reaction to artwork is necessarily both emotional and objective. This also means that certain pieces of artwork may be beloved by some, despised by others. There is no right or wrong answer when the question is greatness. There are, however, occasions for consensus when a piece is less a real work of art and more a real piece of work.

5 And Now Let the Debate Rage

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OK, here we go … were Andy Warhol’s famous soup can paintings art? Or did he just trick the lot of us? And if they are works of fine art, where’s the line? Could a painter today fill a canvas with a 7-11 Big Gulp and call it art? If not, is it only because he or she didn’t think of the concept first? Because if your answer to that is yes, then what about the countless still-life paintings that came before Warhol that depict wine bottles, or art deco advertisement art? Wasn’t he borrowing elements of those works and more? And … go!

4 At Least it’s a Nice Shade of Blue

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Yves Klein was a French painter who died tragically young, at just 34, of a heart condition. Had he lived longer, perhaps his oeuvre would have developed more, achieving a nuance and richness that is arguably touched but not penetrated by his paintings. In his performance art, he was a pioneer. In his paintings, he was a bit of a poseur. Take as evidence his most famous monochrome paintings, which are just what they sound like: canvases entirely covered with a single color. We could have created several of them in the time you’ve spent reading this piece.

3 I Want My Time and My Ticket Money Back

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When American composer John Cage passed away in the early 1990s, the most famous “piece” of “music” he left behind was … nothing at all. His “composition” titled “Four Minutes, Thirty Three Seconds” is arguably performance art, but it is not music. To perform the piece, a musician sits down on stage next to their instrument, and proceeds to do absolutely nothing for exactly 4 minutes, 33 seconds. The “music” is supposed to be the ambient, environmental noise. Here’s the thing: We hear that song four hours out of every single day, which is why we want to hear something else from our musicians!

2 The Name Says it All

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If diamond-encrusting something makes it art, then yes, Damien Hirst is an artist. If diamond-encrusting something simply makes it diamond-encrusted, as we suspect, then his diamond-studded, platinum-cast skull lives up to its name, “For the Love of God,” and is not nearly worth its purported $100 million asking price! It is, however, worth the nearly $14 million of raw materials used to make it, so we’ll still accept it as a gift.

1 Form and Function, at Least

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When Marcel Duchamp entered a piece of “art” titled “Fountain” in a 1917 art show, it was plain to see that in fact all he had done was put a urinal on a pedestal. And we don’t mean that metaphorically: He put an actual urinal on a pedestal, signed it with a pseudonym and called it art. To no one’s surprise, few other people agreed with that assessment. Today, many critics and art historians call the piece avant-garde and laud it as being high art. If you agree with that, then we have several valuable pieces of art in our bathrooms that we’d like to sell you.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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