10 Famous Controversial Art Pieces In History

Added by Edan Barak on Apr 7, 2019

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso is such a famous, popular artist that it's difficult to believe that he was actually behind one of the most controversial works of art of all time. It's true - he painted Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. It's an enormous painting that shows the atrocities that took place during the German bombing and massacre of a town called Guernica in Spain. Understandably, this topic was hugely controversial and completely divided opinion, especially when you consider that the painting was actually used as a propaganda tool. This is one painting that may have shaken up people who saw it, but at the same time it managed to show that art can be a tool which is more useful than just looking pretty!


The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili

Artwork that features religious figures is always going to be controversial in one way or another - it always appeals to some groups more than others. However, I can't help but feel that Chris Ofili took it one step too far with this painting, The Holy Virgin Mary. Going by the title alone, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's a pretty innocent picture. It's not. First of all, the Virgin Mary is depicted as being black, and her figure is surrounded by numerous pornographic images. As if that wasn't enough, the artist placed the canvas atop two piles of elephant dung which have been coated with resin. It's almost as if Ofili decided to think up every single potentially offensive element that he could, before throwing them all together into the same piece.

Whether you're religious or not, you can probably see why so many people were up in arms. After all, it's not exactly the most respectful. As a result, the Brooklyn Museum (where the painting was housed) nearly lost $7 million worth of funding, all because of this one piece. However, the art world fought back. Eventually the museum won its case and the funding was reinstated. This was a victory for the gallery, but the jury's out on whether it was really a victory for the art world.

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