Controversial artworks in the history of art

The art history has shown us along the years artists who have tried several times to revolutionize the perception of the art work itself and furthermore, tried to show us how we could adopt a different view on our world and keep an open mind.

Édouard Manet, has painted “Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe”, in 1863 but when he tried to exhibit his work he wasn’t accepted by the Salon in Paris. He presented it at the “Salon des Refusés”, and produced quite a commotion to the public and the world for immoral behaviour by showing elegantly dressed men sitting on the grass next to a nude woman. The way he used the light and shadows in his painting making the nude women body to stand out even more in contrast to the dark color of men’s clothes was the artist’s misconduct for that period. He was not interested to follow the rules of the art world as they were settled for decades. Édouard Manet’s breach of the unwritten laws of the art in “Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe” represented the beginning of the “Modern Art”.

The mural “Guernica, created by Pablo Picasso in 1937, stands as a symbol for all the war’s horrors and loss of human life. It was painted by Picasso as a token of protest against the extermination of a “Basque village” in 1937, and it’s a shout for peace, showing the not so beautiful side of the “fascism”. It was also considered a point of contention throughout the years due to its strong, critical message. Picasso didn’t want the artwork to be shown in his own country, whilst in 1967 it was on display at MoMa, in New York City, SUA. The exhibition triggered a strong response whereas even a petition was evoked “to be removed as a protest against the Vietnam War”.

Jackson Pollock, abstract expressionist, painted his “Blue Pole, Number 11”, in 1952. It is a large size artwork done by “dripping or splattering paint on the canvas on the floor”. His painting used as a starting point his unhappiness triggered by the monstrosity “of the Second World War”. Being disappointed with the “human condition”, his dripping of paint was a kind of a protest against violence and wars and what it seemed an illogical world. His unusual way to paint was unaccepted first, but after it was seen as a modern way to create art pieces.

One of the most controversial artworks was “My Bed” (1998) created by the British artist Tracy Emin. After she showcased it at the “Tate Britain” in 1999, it has become celebrated or hated by people who visited the exhibition. Some visitors were very affected by the showing of a bed with unorganized clothes around it, but some people liked it and saw it as a revolution in art, where everything nothing was impossible.  “Love it or hate it” has become the slogan for the installation and, “this confessional piece managed to address taboos about people’s most intimate spaces, failure, depression, female imperfections, and bodily fluids”.

Damien Hirst produced a disturbance in the art world with his piece “For the Love of God” when a “platinum cast of a human skull encrusted with diamonds” (8601) was sold for “£50 million – whilst it cost £14 million” to do it. The price he sold it for was “the highest price ever paid for a work by a living artist”. He sold “dead animals preserved in formaldehyde” for as much as “£50.000”. Through these pieces he created a name for himself although he also attracted a lot of disgust and criticism.

In the past, today and, in the future, we will always see artists who will try to scandalize the world with their artworks. The world has certainly become much more open to the unsusual ways the artists express themselves.


The mural “Guernica”, created by Pablo Picasso in1937, on display at the MoMa, in New York City, USA, in 1967.

Édouard Manet, “Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe”, 1863, oil on canvas, rejected by the Salon in Paris in 1863. It has been shown at the “Salon des Refusés”.

1998, “My Bed”, by the British artist Tracy Emin, shown at the “Tate Britain” in 1999.

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