“What is the difference between art and bullshit?”
I remember my favorite art professor in college writing this on the board while we all quietly contemplated its meaning. The truth is, the answer is different for everyone. Sometimes the line only extends as far as the art in your dentist’s office and the random Mona Lisa poster you taped to the wall in your dorm. For me, if someone wants to say what they made is art, as long as they can defend it as such, then it gets the green light as far as I’m concerned. But there are plenty of artists out there who love to push the limits and get people riled up. So here is a list of my all-time favorite controversial art. Beware: this is not your mother’s Norman Rockwell. While I think all art is suitable for work (because who am I to contribute to censorship?), there may be a few NSFW pieces you might not want to open up with your boss lingering over your shoulder. Enjoy the more badass side of art!
1. Fountain (1917)
The turn of the century was a weird time for art, but also the best time, IMO. The Dadaist movement was all kinds of wild: reciting nonsensical poetry while wearing lobster claws, whacky photo collages, and turning generally non-arty things into art all for the sake of knocking down the bourgeois capitalists via the rejection of logic and aesthetic. Fountain is one piece synonymous with Dadaism. Known as a “readymade” because it was...well, already made, Duchamp slapped the signature “R. Mutt” on the side of a regular ole urinal and submitted it to an art show. Upon first glance, you scoff and say, “Um, that’s not art,” but further inspection makes you appreciate the form and design of the urinal, forcing you to see it in a new context than you would have otherwise missed. It’s pretty clever and makes you wonder where the lines are between art, design, and crap. Fountain is the reigning poster child for “weird art,” and I’m living for this OG meme shitposting.
2. Merda d’artista (1961)
Merda d’ artista, or in English, Artist’s Shit is a glorious commentary on how far the public is willing to go to own a piece of celebrity… even if it’s literally a piece of shit. “Produced by” Italian artist Piero Manzoni, as the label says, 90 of these sealed tin cans have been sold back and forth on the market for the last 50 years. In 2016, one sold at auction for a new world record of €275,000 (that’s about $310,756 USD, btw) in Milan. These wild auction prices prove exactly what Manzoni was trying to say in regards to Karl Marx’s idea of commodity fetishism… y’all just bought a really expensive can of poo.
3. The Holy Virgin Mary (1996)