Throughout most of our lives, art has become progressively more controversial. There is a direct correlation between the acceptance of controversial art within society and with the artist’s production of it. This is simply because some artists exist in a world that consists of a never-ending quest for their next great piece of controversial work (because it’ll generate whispers and murmurs and sales; oh my!), as opposed to just searching for the greatest possible creation, controversy notwithstanding. So here is a list of 10 controversial art pieces I’ve compiled that keep or has kept the world eye-deep in artistic hullabaloo. The number-5 slot is reserved for our local, neighborhood murderer and number-10 is occupied by none other than Jesus Christ.
For number ten I’d like to take a quick poll; please raise your left-hand if you like Jesus, and raise your right-hand if you like chocolate? Well, those of you with two-hands-up are going to love Cosimo Cavallaro’s deliciously eye-catching piece of art entitled “My Sweet Lord.” My Sweet Lord is a 6-foot replication of Jesus Christ in his memorable dying moments hanging from the cross, made of chocolate. It was displayed at The Lab Gallery in Manhattan during Easter of 2007. It sounded like a good piece to Cosimo, pun intended; I mean, Art Director Matt Somler agrees, that’s why he put it up for display. He abruptly changed his mind, however, within two days of its opening. He felt so fervent that he had made a mistake; he took the piece down and resigned immediately. He said he, “felt pressure from the religious community” or God, to abandon his post. Number ten kicks this countdown off with a controversial career-ending piece of chocolate art by this Russian artist.
Number nine is another thought-provokingly controversial piece. Like a lot of good art, it can inspire heavy emotions. The work takes the form of three billboards depicting a single image three-times; each image has a different label describing the picture in increasing levels of detail. This projects onto the viewer one small, brilliant epiphany about the individuals that they are observing. “Two people not in love” by Peter Fuss is talked about because of the significant statement the image makes non-literally; moreover in respect to each varying perspective of intelligent life, specifically children of the neighboring McDonald’s.
Number 8 is a structure that consists of 6 tons of wavy, overlapping, concrete slabs, entitled “Etroits sont les Vaisseaux (Narrow Are the Vessels)”. To me, this isn’t so creative. It wouldn’t be so controversial either if I didn’t use the term “structure” loosely. You see, this piece of work belonged to an art collector in Connecticut, and it sat prominently in front of his home; it was made by German artist Anselm Kiefer. The controversy around this “structure” arose when the collector was sued by the Fairfield Historic District Commission because technically, legally, Narrow are the Vessels is a structure of its own, with regard to its mass and gravity. The collector, who had to temporarily close the street to allow five large flatbed trucks to deliver the slabs to his property, didn’t object to the term “structure” and didn’t fight the case. Instead, he transferred it to Massachusetts, a state with less-imposed structure laws, for it to be displayed in the Museum of Natural Art, along with 30 other pieces of Kiefer’s art from his collector. The collector remained anonymous but did say he decided to replace that piece with another piece that can be moved more easily.
Number seven is a diamond encrusted skull by Damien Hirst, “For the Love of God”, which costs $1.8 million. Shortly after it’s creation, a piece entitled “For the Laugh of God”, by Peter Fuss made it’s availability known. For the Love of God is nice and shiny like nearly 2 million dollars ought to look, this is true. For the Laugh of God, however, delivers the same gleaming satisfaction (complete with 9,870 diamond-substitutes) for considerably less than 99% of its sibling’s price. For The Laugh of God was made specifically for public availability; Fuss spent 18 hours of work making it and received 55 pounds for each hour he put into it. That’s not bad at all. Personally, it looks like this piece was collected by a Columbian drug-lord and his sub-urban counterpart. People speculate that Fuss created this piece to speak about the morality of art and money. I wonder if he knows it works both ways, opposite of each other, for each piece. I’d like to own either both of them or neither one.
Number 6 belongs to Angela Singer. If you don’t know who Angela Singer is by now, you may never forget. Angela singer is an artist from New Zealand and her artwork is a little unusual at worst and a little controversial, at best. I’m sure some people even find beauty in it too; we know she does. Angela is an activist for animal-rights and is wholly against vivisections, or the dissection of live animals, or anything similar to it. Well, technically I went too far; she’s not opposed to anything similar to it because she is an artist whose canvas is only, simply made out of dead animals. In particular it’s made out of dissected dead animals. That is to say, who-else can see the beauty that lies beneath animals, in their guts, but the preserver of the animal’s guts themselves? This reminds me of an old American saying, “A black man can tell black jokes.” An activist for animal rights can dissect animals for art as long as it doesn’t impose on their rights if she desires to. Singer says, “These carcasses highlight how grotesque natural beauty can become after suffering at the hands of humanity.” Suffering … she said it herself, she knows what’s up. Angela singer provided controversial art piece number 6 as a collection of art. Thanks Angela.
Slot number five can be held by no one else except for the convicted killer OJ Simpson. OJ beat the murder-trial, indeed, but he lost the civil one; so technically he is a killer, for the record. He plays one in his book too, “If I did it,” where he details to the reader what the commission of his crime would have been like IF he had murdered his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. The release of this book caused a major outcry and fueled the calls for many book-burnings to protest Simpson’s use of Language Arts to collect money on his wife’s death. From the time leading up to the book until after its publication, OJ has maintained his innocence, similar to the “everyone in here is innocent” mentality adopted by inmates. Regardless, unfortunately, what the book-burners failed to recognize is that to burn his book, you must first buy his book and that produces money from its production. This seems to have been the case as CNN reported that his book soared as high as the number-two slot on Barnes and Noble’s top-selling list, too bad it only made it to number five on this countdown.
Number 4 belongs to artist Jeff Koons and the proposed idea for his newest artistic endeavor. Be forewarned, it’s massive and it’s scary. It’s a 161-foot replica of a train being suspended by a crane hanging over the entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; this is similar to a giant shrub puppy he constructed in front of the entrance of another museum. This 161-foot replica will be recognizable from interstate 10 and would become a landmark for Los Angeles; that is if Koons’ dream sees actuality. The only thing this train and crane is missing is an automobile; I suppose patrons to the museum already have access to those. Some artists speculate that Koons’ proposed piece makes no statement and therefore isn’t art. Others say the statement is visible in the piece itself (perhaps the dying-down of LA Museum train usage), but they claim that that’s what makes it art. Whatever you believe you may soon see a train looming in the background of the Los Angeles skyline from the freeway all the way to downtown.
Number 3 belongs to David Cerny of the Czech Republic. Cerny once suggested a masturbating woman as an installation to the top of a theater in France, complete with a water-shooting man that’ll occasionally douse the crowd. David prides himself on his enjoyment of making art that generates shock reactions in people. For instance, in Prague, David erected a statue of two kindly-seeming gentlemen. The men are naked, however, and every-other second their respective penis’ are reaffirmed into their individual grips as they shift from side-to-side shooting water, recognized as piss, down into the pool submerging their feet. You can even check-out a 360 degree view of the area by clicking here. David’s sculpture is cleverly entitled nothing less than, “Piss.” Enough said.
Number 2 is German Artist Gregor Schneider’s unmade controversial piece of art which can be referred to as, “The beauty in death.” Gregor Schneider’s newest artistic endeavor will be complete as soon as he has a volunteer who is willing to die in a museum in observance of spectators from another room. The controversy arises when some people suggest that, “What if no one sees any beauty in death? What if there is simply death in death?” He claims that no individual’s death in his piece will be in vein (and all necessary respects to the dying will be made prior to their death). There is much debate over the artistic value of this design, if any, and there was great speculation over whether Gregor should have actually been picked as number 1 in this countdown too.
Number 1, however, belongs to David Cerny and his recreation of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who, for this piece of art, is submerged in a tank of formaldehyde, better known as embalming fluid. “Shark,” shuts this contest down in terms of controversial art. Besides how any Saddam supporter feels, Shark, is a political piece that provokes the definition for controversial art. David created this art with his philosophical belief in the “impossibility of death in the minds of something living.” Which only strikes one thought within me which is: is he really trying to keep Saddam alive? At any rate, Shark is a realistic depiction of that despotic dictator we all have grown to know and view in obscurity so well.
Have some work you’ve found that you think is especially controversial? Anything that offends you personally? Please, leave a comment!
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