Art History  •  Famous faces

Controversial Art Pieces that Caused Public Outrage

Controversial art has always been essential within the world of Contemporary art. Some of its actors, recognized for their, ‘ahem’, unique work, offer offbeat creations that push the limits of the genre and end up arousing public indignation in the process. In this article, Singular takes a look at five contemporary artists who have turned the art world on its head with their works.

Controversial Art in Paris: Anish Kapoor’s Dirty Corner

Dirty Corner - Anish Kapoor

Born on March 12, 1954 in Bombay, Anish Kapoor is a British contemporary artist who provoked a wave of indignation with his 2011 installation, Dirty Corner. Set in the gardens of Versailles, the large cone structure surrounded by exaggerated rubble contrasted brilliantly with the immaculate gardens. The sculpture was nicknamed the “Queen’s Vagina” by the French public and soon became a target for graffiti artists who often labeled the structure with anti-semetic slurs. Kapoor, rather than covering up said graffiti, argued that it should be left intact in order to demonstrate the reality of intolerance and racism in French society. However, a court decision in 2015 ruled the graffiti must be covered stating that to leave the graffiti intact would be to give the perpetrators exactly what they wanted.

Sex, Comedy and Controversial Art: Paul McCarthy’s The Tree

Photo: EPA/Christophe Karaba

Paul McCarthy is an American visual artist and UCLA professor who made himself known the world over with his 2014 work The Tree. Placed in the heart of the famous Place Vendôme in Paris, the inflatable sculpture played with ambiguity. While meant to represent a Christmas tree, the sculpture is clearly designed to look like a butt plug. McCarthy stated that the design was indeed intentional and meant as a joke. The Parisian public however did not find the joke particularly funny and the installation was vandalized and destroyed just a few days after it was first erected.

Body Dismorphia with Patricia Piccinini’s The Long Awaited

The long awaited - Patricia Piccinini

Sierra Leone artist Patricia Piccinini is perhaps the most infamous artists in this collection. Her sculptures and interactive art objects are recognized throughout the contemporary art scene as for their grotesque forms that blend human and animal characteristic into intentionally-disturbing figures. Her pieces intend to highlight the tenuous relationships we have with our bodies and the general resistance to accepting bodies outside the norm.

Science, Death and Religion in Paul Fryer’s Pieta

Pieta - Paul Fryer

A contemporary British artist born in 1963, Paul Fryer attended Leeds College of Art and Design where he studied with Damien Hirst during the 1980s. After working as a graphic designer throughout the 1990s, Fryer returned to art full time in 2005. In 2009 he presented his seminal work which would shock the world. La Pieta appropriated Michelangelo’s sculpture of the same name wherein Mary is seen holding the deceased body of the Christ after his crucifixion. Fryer’s version shows the Christ deceased in a contemporary electric chair. The piece, which explored Fryer’s fascination with ‘the dark side of science’ aroused outrage among Christian communities worldwide.

Maurizio Cattelan: L.O.V.E

L.O.V.E - Maurizio Cattelan

Maurizio Cattelan is a contemporary Italian artist born in Padua in 1960. In 2010, he staged a temporary exhibition in the Piazza Affari in Milan. Directly in front of the Italian stock exchange, Cattelan installed a gigantic hand of which only the middle finger has not been chopped off. The exhibition, meant to last two weeks, became a permanent installation at the behest of the municipal government. The statue was a clear ‘F-you’ to the banking industry and its role in the European economic collapse of 2008.

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