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Most Controversial Artworks in History

  • "The third of May 1808" By Francisco Goya

    "The third of May 1808" By Francisco Goya
    Is a painting completed in 1814 by the Spanish painter Francisco Goya, now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. This painting made a lot of Spanish people very angry to hear of such incidents, and Goya's painting helped fuel that anger even further rallying more people to fight back the French.
  • "The raft of the Medusa" By Théodore Géricault

    "The raft of the Medusa" By Théodore Géricault
    The Raft of the Medusa is an oil painting completed when the artist was just 27, the work has become an icon of French Romanticism.The life size image gives the image a real sense of realism which caused this to be one of the most controversial artworks in history.
  • "The slave ship" By J.M.W Turner

    "The slave ship" By J.M.W Turner
    The subject of the painting is the practice of eighteenth century slave traders, who would throw the dead and dying slaves overboard during the middle passage in the Atlantic Ocean in order that they might claim the insurance for drowning. By painting such an emotive subject Turner was most likely attempting to assist in the abolitionist campaign, though by this date slavery had been abolished throughout the British Empire.
  • "A burial at Ornans" By Gustave Courbet

    "A burial at Ornans" By Gustave Courbet
    This painting was one of the major turning points of 19th-centrie's French art. The painting records the funeral in September 1848 of his great-uncle in the painter's birthplace, the small town of Ornans. It treats an ordinary provincial funeral with unflattering realism, and on the giant scale traditionally reserved for the heroic or religious scenes of history painting.
  • "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" By Pablo Picasso

    "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" By Pablo Picasso
    A large oil painting of by the Spanish artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881–1973). The controversial art work portrays five nude female prostitutes from a brothel on Avinyó Street in Barcelona.
  • Guernica (painting) By Pablo Picasso

    Guernica (painting) By Pablo Picasso
    Shows the tragedies of war during the bombing of Guernica by Italian and German war planes and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. This work has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace. On completion Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed. This tour helped bring the Spanish Civil War to the world's attention.
  • Sexuality and Obscenity by Robert Mapplethorpe's

    Sexuality and Obscenity by Robert Mapplethorpe's
    Mapplethorpe was known for his large-scale black and white portraits, naked men and photos of flowers. Homosexual eroticism of some of the work of his middle period triggered a more general controversy about the public funding of artworks.
  • Surrounded "Pink" Islands, Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida, 1980-1983 by Christo and Jean-Claude

    Surrounded "Pink" Islands, Biscayne Bay, Miami, Florida, 1980-1983 by Christo and Jean-Claude
    Christo and Jean-Claude used 6.5 million square feet of floating pink fabric to encircle eleven islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. The work required the help of hundreds of people, engineers, contractors, seamstresses, as well as extensive consultations with marine ornithologists and biologists.
  • Tilted Arc by Richard Serra

    Tilted Arc by Richard Serra
    Titled Arc was a sculpture of a curving wall, made of raw steel, 120 feet long and 12 feet high.The wall that carved the space of the Federal Plaza New York, in half, and constructed in 1981, and after much debate was dismantled in 1989.
  • "Piss Christ" by Andres Serrano

    "Piss Christ" by Andres Serrano
    Depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine.
    The photograph was one of a series of photographs that Serrano had made that involved classical statuettes submerged in various fluids such as milk, blood, and urine. Piss Christ is often used as a test-case for the idea of freedom of speech.
  • Dead Animals Exhibition by Damien Hirst

    Dead Animals Exhibition by Damien Hirst
    Death is a central theme in Hirst's works. He became famous for a series of artworks in which dead animals (including a shark, a sheep and a cow) are preserved sometimes having been dissected in formaldehyde (an organic compound). In this picture is a dead sheep cut in half.
  • Sculptures by David Cerny

    Sculptures by David Cerny
    This Czech artist's work always tends to be controversial. This sculpture of an embryo is one of the most contreverial in history. Several of his pieces were censored when he launched them, including an image of Saddam Hussein in a tank of formaldehyde.
  • "Holy Virgin Mary" Painting by Chris Ofili

    "Holy Virgin Mary" Painting by Chris Ofili
    This painting was part of the Sensation Exhibition, at the Museum of Art in New York on December 16, 1999. Caused a great deal of controversy for using elephant dung and pornographic images in a picture of the Virgin Mary. The Catholic Church, as well as New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani found the exhibit as morally offensive and threatened to cut off funding to the museum and terminate its lease if it did not cancel the exhibit that included Ofili’s painting.
  • "Yo mama's last supper" by Renee Cox

    "Yo mama's last supper" by Renee Cox
    “Yo Mama’s Last Supper” is a 15-foot-tall photograph of a nude African-American woman portraying Jesus, surrounded by 12 black men portraying the disciples. Mayor Giuliani was deeply offended by this work of art. The work was seen as a way of promoting promote racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism and anti-Islamism.
  • "Loose Lips Sink Ships" by Peter Langenbach

    "Loose Lips Sink Ships" by Peter Langenbach
    This sculpture depicts President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in a bathtub. In 2001, at the California State Fair in Sacremento, officials determined this sculpture, which had actually won the prize for “best sculpture,” was unfit for exhibition and banned. No question as to why this one of the most controversial artworks in history.