We all enjoy a bit of a laugh from time to time (or even more often).
On a whole other level, famous artists have perpetrated some of the craziest, weirdest, smartest art hoaxes in history. In honour of April Fools’ Day, here are some of our favourite.
DUCHAMP’S PRINCIPLED URINAL
The story is legend. Duchamp, wanting to submit an artwork to the “unjuried” Society of Independent Artists’ salon in New York—which claimed that they would accept any work of art, so long as the artist paid the application fee—presented an upside-down urinal signed and dated with the appellation “R. Mutt, 1917,” and titled “Fountain”. Unsurprisingly, it was rejected, Duchamp resigned in protest and changed art forever by championing “ready mades”.
While an assistant to a florentine painter Cimabue, Giotto (Florence 1266/7 – 1377) was asked to complete the background of his master’s work. After doing so, Giotto also painted a fly on the white part of the painting. When Cimabue returned, he admired the work and then noticed the fly. After several attempts to shoo the fly away with his hand, the master realised it wasn’t real, laughed and praised young Giotto.
In the 1490s, young Michelangelo sculpted a sleeping cupid and then buried it in acidic dirt. That gave the piece the look of a very old sculpture, which he then sold to a cardinal for big bucks (or florins, or whatever). When the cardinal realised the fakery, he demanded his money back, but he was so impressed by the young Michelangelo’s talent that he didn’t press charges. This also kick-started Michelangelo’s career.
“TIME” BOMB By Warhol
Andy Warhol created hundreds of “Time Capsules,” in which he packed up the contents of his desk each day for posterity or something. But on April Fools’ Day in 1978, he instead packed up the contents from a nearby shoe repairman’s desk—random junk like birthday cards and receipts. Thirty years later, the Andy Warhol Museum discovered his prank when they opened the capsule. Classic Andy.
Nat Tate was an abstract expressionist who destroyed 99 percent of his work and, tragically, leaped from the Staten Island Ferry to his death. Also, he never existed. With help from the likes of Gore Vidal and David Bowie, author William Boyd invented Nat Tate (named for the National Gallery of Art in D.C. and Britain’s Tate Gallery) in a faux biography published in 1998. Tate enjoyed a week of faux-posthumous fame until the secret got out…although one of “his” paintings (actually by Boyd) sold in 2011 for nearly $11,000.
Shredding his own painting is just the latest in a line of pranks from the enigmatic artist.
One of the earliest Banksy pranks took place at the Tate Britain in 2003. Wearing a disguise, the artist entered the museum carrying a large package. He placed the painting on Tate Britain’s walls next to some renowned 19th-century landscapes. The painting was called “Crimewatch UK Has Ruined the Countryside For All of Us”, and depicted a pastoral scene covered with blue and white police tape. The painting was later removed by security and placed in “lost property”.
Like many good pranks, Harvey Stromberg’s stickers are both famous and mysterious. In works he later described as “photo-sculptures”, Stromberg installed over 300 adhesive-backed, life-sized photographs of fittings – light switches, door-handles etc. – in the New York Museum of Modern Art.
VOINA GROUP’S “GIANT GALACTIC SPACE DICK”
After tricking their way past security guards, members of Voina painted a huge phallus along the Liteiny Bridge in central St. Petersburg. The penis-pic was 289ft long and 89ft wide. When the bascule-style bridge was raised, the image pointed directly at the offices of the Federal Security Services of the Russian Federation.
What’s your favourite?