Controversial Art That Changed The World April 24, 2023 April 24, 2023 Zygmunt Duda

If art is good it makes the world sit up and take notice. Though, sometimes art also has to stir controversy to get attention. As can be seen in history, controversial art stands out, makes the world talk, and gets people thinking. Here is some art that was not met with much praise, but ultimately went on to change the world in a real way.

Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe – 1863

In 1863 the art world was very different to how it is today. But artist Édouard Manet, outgoing and stubborn, did not follow conventions. He is responsible for what is seen as amongst the most controversial paintings of all time, ultimately creating a landscape for the modern art of today. His painting, Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, depicts a nude woman, defiantly looking at the viewer. Importantly, her nudity isn’t actually on display. She covers her personal areas with an arm and leg, technically only implying nudity. However, surrounding the nude women are numerous men, conversing and otherwise not aware of her presence.

In 1893 the painting was a scandal, though still Manet did not back down. Other artists quickly understood that they were not as bound by society as they had thought.

Fountain – 1917

What would you say if someone gave you a urinal as art? In 1917 Marcel Duchamp insisted that a urinal be accepted into the Society of Independent Artists. Of course, the Society did not accept the urinal, though controversy was immediately sparked. What is art? Why shouldn’t the urinal be art? Duchamp didn’t present the urinal without thought, clearly having the intention of sparking that exact conversation.

Many conversations and debates took place following Duchamp’s urinal, shaping what we consider to be modern art today.

Guernica – 1937

Next time you’re enjoying election betting on your phone and are waiting to see if you’re a winner, have a look at Guernica by Pablo Picasso. The mural depicts the massacre of a village in Basque, though the twisted images and unsettling figures are very unclear. Picasso refused to put the mural on display in Spain, demanding justice before he let his art be seen. Later, during the Vietnam War, protestors petitioned to have the mural taken down until the Vietnam War comes to an end.

Few artworks have ever had such a strong link to anti-war protests.

My Bed – 1998

The story of My Bed, an artwork by Tracy Emin, is long and intimate enough to deserve an article of its own. In essence, the artwork is simply a messy bed with various embarrassing or otherwise distasteful objects. Though, no objects are items that wouldn’t be seen around the average bed of a person living in poverty, or perhaps living in depression.

It is, according to Emin, an exact copy of a bed she used for many years. After overcoming her depression she transformed the ‘death bed’ into an artwork. Seen as grotesque by critics at the time, My Bed is now a centrepiece for discussing depression.