Five 20th Century Art Scandals

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Do Women Have To Be Naked To Get Into The Met Museum?

Guerilla Girls, 1989
Their aim was, and still is, to challenge accepted social and cultural norms while fighting for gender equality.

This striking piece from 1989 caused huge controversy when it was first released.

The artists behind it called themselves the Guerilla Girls, who wore gorilla masks in public and pseudonyms to protect their identity.

Upon receiving a request from the Public Art Fund (PAF) to design a billboard, members of this collective visited the MET Museum.

Cut Piece

Yoko Ono, 1964

John Lennon's widow has never shied away from controversy, and her performance series "Cut Piece" is a perfect example.

Ono kneels in the center of the stage, inviting audience members to come and cut a piece of her clothing off to take home with them.

She is slowly but surely laid bare before the crowd as music gently pulses in the background.

Much of the piece's scandal came from the inherent violence associated with cutting away her clothing.

On one occasion, a man threatened to stab her.

On another, she faced fierce criticism while sitting almost naked.

Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial 1981

After selecting her work, the committee was inundated with calls to stop its installation.

After selecting her work, the committee was inundated with calls to stop its installation.

Critics pointed out its V-shape, claiming it was a subtle homage to the sign used by anti-war protestors.

They decried the use of black granite, saying the color was associated with degradation and defeat.

As donors withdrew their funding, they conceded incorporating a 50ft pole waving the star-spangled banner

Rhythm 0

Marina Abramovic 1974
Giving the audience the option to instill pain or pleasure.

During Rhythm 10, Abramovic used a knife to stab a piece of paper held within her fingers.

Each time she cut herself, she changed the tool until she had exhausted all 20.

In Rhythm 0, she chose 72 objects that members of the public were free to pick from to "use on her."

Chosen carefully, giving the audience the option to instill pain or pleasure.


Marcel Duchamp, 1917
He submitted the Fountain under t pseudonym “R. Mutt”. To his outrage, they rejected it

Duchamp’s most iconic work became a symbol of artistic revolution, and is arguably one of the most important pieces to ever emerge from the century.

It was the fruit of a conversation between Duchamp, artist Joseph Stella, and a collector named Walter Arensberg.

Duchamp and many other artists of the time dreamed of creating an epicenter of artistic expression that would rival Paris, without any of the old fashioned attitudes and politics.

Duchamp tested his peers' commitment to this ideal by submitting the Fountain under the pseudonym “R. Mutt”. To his outrage, they rejected it, and heated debate arose around attitudes towards artistic freedom in the New World.

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