A List of the Times People Mistook Totally Random Objects for Art

Remembering some of our favorite pranks in the art world and beyond.

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May 28 2017, 12:10pm

Photo Courtesy of Ruairi Gray, on Facebook

So, someone left a pineapple on a rather decorative display stand at an exhibition at Aberdeen's Robert Gordon University, and everyone thought it was art. Two students placed the tropical fruit there as a joke, but when they returned, the pineapple was not only still there, it had been moved to a display case, protected by plexiglass. Naturally. No one at the museum has fessed up to any involvement with this fantastically ridiculous occurrence, but as we appreciate this, uh, incident, we can't help but recall the other art pranks that have taken place in recent history. In honor of Marcel DuChamp, a.k.a. R. Mutt's, Fountain, and to commemorate the recurring inclination to fuck with the art world elite, we at Creators have decided to journey down the rabbit hole of everyday objects mistaken for art.

Glasses Gone Astray

Photo Courtesy of Ken Nguyen, on NYT

Last May, another youngster left a pair of glasses on the floor of San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art as a prank to see how museum patrons would respond. As you might suspect by the theme of this article, attendees crowded around the spectacles, mistaking it for a piece of modern art. Hilarious tweets show a number of people inspecting the "exhibit"—rather contemplatively, might we add—with one man even crouching to snap a photo of the specs. The two teens responsible for the prank returned later to retrieve the glasses, and we are grateful for them.

BJ Novak's Guided Tour

Ryan from The Office, also known as real person BJ Novak, has confessed to creating his own self-guided tour of an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Clearly peaking, (it was 1997, after all) Novak's tour suggested sniffing paint and doing the hokey-pokey, but only after keeping the first three minutes entirely accurate. Oh, and let's not forget to note that Novak enlisted one of his friends to help, due to his "deep Romanian accent." Novak and his brother even recorded their own background music.

Nat Tate

This one's a doozy, and it involves David Bowie, so it's definitely our favorite. A fusion of the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery, completely fabricated artist Nat Tate was brought into being by writer William Boyd. Together with David Bowie and Gore Vidal, Boyd and his wordsmithery wrote a full autobiography for the faux artist, and in 1998 Bowie hosted a launch party for Nat Tate. Many of the attendees, who were members of the art world's upper echelon, maintained that they knew of Tate, and—wait for it—one of Tate's pieces actually sold for $11,000. Yep, that happened.

Missing Mitten

This one didn't quite make the rounds, but one single tweet forever commemorates the moment someone dropped their glove at MoMA PS1. The single black glove remained on the floor as individuals tiptoed around the object, confused and unsure if it was an example of modern artistic ingenuity.

Politics as Performance

While this is not exactly an "art prank," per se, this has to be one of the most outrageous pranks we've come across. In 2016, when Canadian conservative Chris Lloyd resigned from office, he technically wasn't resigning from political office, he was ending a decade-long piece of performance art. Hoping to "mess with" the The Conservative Party of Canada—spoiler alert, he succeeded—Lloyd's project began with a desire to explore how well "any of us really know our elected officials, TV stars, or sports heroes," as mentioned in his blog posts. When he began his venture into politics, he was rather upfront about his artistic aspirations, but was given increased responsibilities before being officially nominated as a candidate for the Tories (the quotidian term for the Conservative Party). While Lloyd did genuinely participate in political action in some ways, this was indeed a performance, and one that we are still in awe about.

Ever come across something you weren't sure was art? Tell us about it on Twitter @CreatorsProject.

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