The Art Critic | Shock Value as an Art Form

Art as we know is subjective and takes on many different forms. As we prepared for the Thanksgiving Holiday, we couldn’t help but recognize that animal rights organizations are using the “creative licence tag” and stretching the limits of art beyond tasteful, reasonable boundaries. If you’re into that Shocking-Provocateur stuff, look no further than PETA. Their campaigns often feel more like a well organized art presentation – one highly studied and choreographed for maximum impact – than a true reflection of a belief in animal rights. In their latest move, they take this concept to new heights, targeting Super Mario Brothers‘ Tanuki (Murmansky: Nyctereutes Procyonides) costume in the popular video game.

So now even virtual fur is a target? Watch out Dora! Be careful what you wear when you explore the Antarctic!

And now, on Thanksgiving comes news of PETA’s vegan campaign. Suggesting images of Fluffy, the family dog stuffed and raosted for dinner, billboards placed near schools are sure to attract attention, and tears, from children excited about the traditional holiday turkey dinner.


Diana Vreeland once stated famously, “I adore that pink… it’s the navy blue of India”; and as odd and over-the-top as this statement might seem, it is actually a wise observation. Colors in India are observed differently, and of course look different under the Indian light.

Which brings to mind the art world. Yes my friends, what is “offensive” is the new black for the art world – its uniform. We’re so used to seeing and hearing everything with an edgy bite that it is difficult to grab our attention. It has to be new and breakthrough to get our attention. So what is the answer? The offensive stuff, of course!

Look no further than the Guggenheim Museum’s current show with Master Provocateur extraordaire, Maurizio Cattelan: All. This sculptural installation is ledden with everything from hanged children, grandma in a fridge, a crucified mental patient (or some kinky interpretation), mini-Adolf Hitler, taxidermy pets and various ‘barn yard’ species, and, even cops hanging from their feet. Hardly subtle, no?

Needless to say, this show ruffles a few feathers and is honestly offensive as it samples the art world’s vocabulary. Mr. Maurizio Cattelan knows how to be a provocateur, and is laughing all the way to the auction block. As offensive as Pope John Paul II under a rock, President Kennedy in a coffin, and Stephanie Seymour as a trophy [wife] can be, Cattelan plays the popular culture game to the hilt.

Los Angeles’ MoCA just had a star-studded soirée with Marina Abramovic, who herself has a good résumé in that provocateur genre, though hers is by far less ‘cartoony.’

So where is that invisible line drawn when art ceases to be about creativity or expression and becomes purely predictable cheap shock for profit? What do you think of PETA’s campaigns?  Please tell us your thoughts!

Comments ( 1 )

  • désorienté says:

    “Los Angeles’ MoCA just had a star-studded soirée with Marina Abramovic, who herself has a good résumé in that provocateur genre, though hers is by far less ‘cartoony.’”

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