Art that shocked the world

10 pieces of art that shocked the world…

  • Mother and Child (Divided) – Damien Hirst 1993

It has long been the case that works nominated for the Turner Prize, founded in 1984, have provoked controversy – not only in the art world but within wider society. Hirst’s dissected cow was no different.

  • Piss Christ – Andres Serrano 1987

Appropriating religious iconography has always been a risky business. Serrano’s photo of a crucifix suspended in his own urine was no different: it was seen as heinously disrespectful, despite the fact that Serrano is Christian himself. 24 years later, French Catholic fundamentalists destroyed a print of the photo on display in Avignon.

  • Myra – Marcus Harvey 1995

A mural sized portrait of the child murderer Myra Hindley created out of the painted handprints of children. It created a  stark juxtaposition between the innocence of youth and Hindley’s crimes. On the first day of the work’s exhibition eggs and ink were thrown at it and Hindley herself wrote a letter from prison asking for it to be taken down.

  • The Holy Virgin Mary – Chris Ofili 1996

A depiction of a black madonna with collaged cut out pieces from pornography magazines not only sparked debate but won the Turner Prize in 1998. It was seen as blasphemous provocation but was actually intended as a harsh criticism of the degradation of black women in modern society.

  • My Bed – Tracey Emin 1998

It won the Turner Prize, sparked controversy and made Emin a household name. It was the artists bed – complete with a full ashtray, knickers and used condoms. Many think that it cannot be seen as true art but surely it is similar to the readymades of Marcel Duchamp. The work sold for more than $4,000,000 at auction.

  • Tilted Arc – Richard Serra 1981

Not sexual or political just a nuisance. Serra’s work was put into a Manhattan plaza and after some months taken away because it bothered people – nothing else.

  • Work 271 – Martin Creed 2000

Otherwise known as The lights going off and on – it was simply that: a room in which the lights went off and on again every 5 seconds. Was it art, electrical ability or a risk to to epileptics – probably all of them.

  • Guernica – Pablo Picasso 1937

A mural depicting the bombing of the Spanish town of Guernica – the most horrific bombing raid of the Spanish Civil War. Not only was the subject matter shocking but the unnatural and distorted shapes of Picasso’s typical cubist style were not met with acclaim at the time of the work’s first exhibition.

  • Do Women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum – Guerrilla Girls 1989

A feminist statement about the lack of female artists work on display at the New York Metropolitan Museum yet the over riding amount of make artists work that depicted naked women. The Guerrilla Girls are an anonymous group of women – an inspiration to Pussy Riot.

  • Los Intocables – Erica Ravelo 2013

Translated as The Untouchables, the Cuban Artists work shows the various exploitations of children in different countries such as Brazil, Syria, Thailand, United States and Japan. The work covers issues of paedophilia, sex abuse, war, trafficking and obesity. The work is stark but important.


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