What is Shock Art?

The name says it all. Shock art incorporates disturbing imagery, sound or scents to create a shocking experience. It is not a new trend in the art scene. It existed many centuries ago.

Some Artists Who Created Shock Art During Their Time

The styles and techniques of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet and Camille Pissarro were ‘shocking’ to not only the priests in the high temple of art but to the public during their time.

Like many impressionist painters, Claude Monet received a great deal of harsh criticism for his vibrantly bold new artistic movement. Interestingly, a Monet’s painting is worth $110.7 million at a Sotheby’s auction today. Rejecting traditional art training, Manet’s bold brush strokes, implied shapes, vigorous simplified forms and subjects also shocked many during his time. One critic described the subject of Manet’s painting ‘Luncheon on the Grass‘, 1862 as ‘fairly scabrous’. Degas was not spared by the critics as well and his ‘The La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans‘ received unanimous displeasure. The dancer was compared to a monkey and an Aztec. An art critic, Paul Mantz called her the ‘flower of precocious depravity’, with a face ‘marked by the hateful promise of every vice’ and ‘bearing the signs of a profoundly heinous character.’ Today, it is worth around $15-23 million.

Pablo Picasso also offended many, including artist, Matisse, who was angered by Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon‘. He considered that work as a hoax. Critic Salmon wrote ‘It was the ugliness of the faces that froze with horror the half-converted.’ Painter Derain also commented harshly, ‘One day we shall find Pablo has hanged himself behind his great canvas.’

Marcel Duchamps’ Fountain, was another famous work which created an outrage during his time. On 17 November 1999, a version of Fountain (owned by Arturo Schwarz) was sold at Sotheby’s, New York, for $1,762,500.

Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’, 1987; a photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine, was not well-received at all. He received death threats and budget cuts for the arts in congress as a result.

Videos contain controversial issue on religion and some nudity. Viewer discretion is advised.

Artists who created shock art claimed that they have a statement to make but some people are just not receptive to this form of art.

So is it art? You be the judge.

Other Controversial Artworks

A shout-out to all shock artists, we want to connect with you!