Art and Controversy: Controversial Art of centuries6 min read

controversial artwork

Controversial Art – Art has been always a form to express the feelings, surroundings, outrage and everything that is called life. It has been wide era of imagination of artists that we can see all around the world on churches, temples, paintings, sculptures and even as miniature things.

But still there have been lots of artworks that stood controversial during different times. Here, we have brought the list of most controversial artworks of all the time that set outrage and noise for their unique imagination.

Related: Controversial Photographers

1. Guernica (1937) Artist- Pablo Picasso

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A Pablo Picasso art of 1937 that laid emphasis over a powerful political statement during the Spanish Civil War. The painting shows the artistic version of brutal attacks on Guernica on Nazis as a practice session. It strongly focuses on the devastation of humanity during the war.

Painting depicts the destruction of Fascism movement symbolized by the bull. This striking art of violence has been the most controversial artwork of Picasso till now. Unnatural and humans crying for help makes a heart wrenching effect on viewers.

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2. Everyone I have Ever Slept With (1963-1995) Artist- Tracey Emin

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The strange name depicts how controversial art piece it has been considered over ages. Though the work was later destroyed with her 100 other controversial art in the fire of East London Warehouse. The main reason behind the controversy is guessed to be its name, which was quite misleading. This controversial art piece was basically a tent with 102 names of every person she ever slept with in not only sexual but in pure affectionate sense.

According to the creator Tracey, She created it with a thought to share her affection with everyone she shared her bed or wall whether it was her grandma or other person. Quoting her childhood nostalgia, she said that she used to lay with her holding her hand, listening radio and that sleep you can have only with the one you love and care.

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3. Do Women have to be Naked to get into the Met. Museum? (1989) Artist-Guerrilla Girls

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The weird name and controversial title gives this controversial modern art an entry to this list. Guerrilla Girls are the anonymous group of female artists. The reason behind the formation of this group is quite interesting. The group was formed in response to the selection of only 13 women out of 169 artists in 1984 painting and sculpture survey at New York’s museum of modern art.

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To empower the women artists in the contemporary art establishment, they pitched this controversial contemporary art to the Public Art Fund for a New York Billboard. Though this controversial modern art got rejected but the guerrilla girls hung it around the city in nights with their signature guerrilla masks hiding their identity.

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4. X portfolio (1989) Artist- Robert Mapplethorpe

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X portfolio is the controversial album art with number of sexually explicit photographs. The figured snapshots featured at Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington DC. The pictures of sado macholism, homosexuality created huge controversy making it one of the controversial art exhibitions. Later, the exhibition was cancelled but faced the protest by projecting large images of Robert’s work onto the side of the same building.

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5. Piss Christ (1987) Artist- Andres Serrano

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The name itself is an invitation to the religious controversy. The height to controversy can be guessed by the matter of discussion over it for more than last two decades. The controversial art piece is basically a photograph of a plastic crucified Jesus submerged in artist’s urine. Yes, you read it right artist’s urine, this was enough to make it a controversial art in history. A great outrage was set in Avignon, France; where Catholics attempted to destroy it with the help of hammers. Though the artist declared it as just a reflection of his art and as Christian believer in the Guardian (2012).

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6. Myra (1997) Artist- Marcus Harvey

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The controversial art gallery exhibition at Royal Academy in 1997 witnessed the most controversial art piece. It was basically a portrait of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. These were convicted serial killers responsible for the sexual assault and murder of five children in 1960. The controversial painting of art history made by the handprints of small children pointing the severity of crime against the innocence and humanity. It is interesting to know that the work of Harvey exhibited a brief appearance in promotional video for 2012 Olympics in 2008.

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7. The Holy Virgin Mary (1996) Artist- Chris Ofili

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It’s an obvious trend that any religious titled art work get into controversy so fast. The best example of the controversial painting in the art history is a Virgin Mary. The painting shows a black Virgin Mary with collaged pornographic images and elephant dung. The controversial art work was caused stir after three years of its creation.

At this day, the controversial art was scheduled to show in “Sensation” a travelling group exhibition bound for New York’s Brooklyn museum. The mayor of the City was so disappointed that he attempted to block the museum’s funding. It was sold for $4.6 million at auction.

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8. Trench Warfare (1932) Artist- Otto Dix

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Trench Warfare is another controversial graffiti that depicts the effects of war on human existence. This controversial art pieces are said to be based on his war experiences during First World War Its unfortunate that the painting was later burnt considering it as saddist depiction of war.

The artist of Trench Warfare Otto, was himself a German soldier was asked to resign from his job due to his artworks. Otto was then forced to join the Nazi Government’s Reich Chamber of Fine Arts. He was banned from making controversial painting of art history later.

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9. Fountain (1917) Artist- Marcel Duchamp

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Fountain is one of the most famous controversial art of the 20th century. It is nothing but simply an upturned porcelain urinal. It was created to be submitted in the Annual exhibition of Society of Independent Artists in 1917. The exhibition had rule of accepting all kinds of artwork that had paid with fees. But the case gone different for this considered controversial art and it got rejected.

Later art historians and theorists admitted it as the major landmark and one of the great artwork in that era. Now, this controversial modern art can be found only with its 17 replicas, out of which eight were auctioned for $1.7 million in November 1999 at Sotheby’s. It was also selected as the most influential artwork of 20th century by 500 British art world Professionals in the year 2004.

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10. The Death of the Virgin (1601-1606) Artist- Caravaggio

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Death of Virgin is one of the most controversial painting of the 16th century. The painting is about the Virgin Mary (Mother of Lord Jesus) and her death. The main reason behind the controversy was the different depiction of Mary than the popular belief of Church. Another reason that sent its artist Caravaggio suffer the outrage was using the well-known prostitute of that time as the model for the painting. The church wanted Mary shown to be died peacefully while Caravaggio showed her with swollen feet and bloated stomach and yes the way her legs were shown was enough to ignite outrage.

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Even today there are many art forms that make the audience uneasy. It’s hard to decide whether an art is controversial or not, for in every age anything out of the norms stir outrage. Above all, the art should be conveyed, appreciated or could be ignored also if not liked, but in any of case it should not be disrespected, burnt or destroyed. Life has no limitations so does the art and imagination should have. So, read more and let your imagination get wings.


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