Mona Lisa in the West, ??? in the East/North/South?

There’s the generally held belief that the Mona Lisa is the best painting in Western Civilization, or if not the best, then certainly the best known. As for works of art, we currently have a debate in GD where people are discussing some of the best sculptures ever made. Stuff like that generally falls into works by one of the old Renaissance masters, the 4 ninjas turtles, some ancient Greeks, etc.

What are some lesser known works from the East/South/North, or other nations not in the West, that you would consider the epitome of art for that area? For sake of comparison, let’s stick to things like paintings and sculptures and not include buildings.

For me, the most famous painting in China is probably Along the River During the Quingming Festival. The original was made by Zhang Zeduan during the Song Dynasty in the 12th century. Its 10 inches in height but 5 meters long. It has over 800 people, and dozens of boats, animals, vehicles, buildings, and trees. The size and detail is astonishing, and its fame lead to some recreations in the 13th or 14th century that’s over 6 meters, and a Qing dynasty version in the 1700’s that’s over 11 meters with over 4000 people.

The Moai statues of Easter Island is probably the only famous work of art most people can name from the South Pacific. They are gigantic, the tallest one being 33ft and weighing 82 tons. Most are made from tuff, a rock of compressed volcanic ash, and dated to between 1250 and 1500 CE. Unlike a lot of the Western works of art, we can only speculate about their creators (the island craftsmen) and what they symbolize (aliens!!).

The Great Sphinx of Giza is probably the well-known monument in the world, owing to its size and antiquity. To better get a sense of how old it is, I’ve often heard that we are closer to the time of Cleopatra than Cleopatra was to the Sphinx. It predates her by 2500 years! I know I said no buildings, and the Sphinx is as big as a building, but you can’t go inside it so its no really a building. Carved out of a bedrock of limestone which served as a quarry for the pyramids, the Sphinx is believed to be built during the reign of Pharao Khafra around 2500 BCE. In mythology, its been known to stump people with the riddle where, if you can’t answer it, it eats you, because ancient games aren’t fun if someone’s life’s not on the line.

The quintessential American painting.

For the record, in that thread I’m only arguing the second, not the first. It’s the greatest painting in the World (not just the West), not the best (That’s Guernica :)).

And for Egypt, I’m guessing the Tut mask and Nefertiti bust have to rank up there.

I’m guessing this is in the running for eastern famous:

What’s your definition of* greatest* versus best? For this thread, I looked up some famous paintings, but they ended up being from Spanish artists which I consider part of Western European civilization, so I didn’t mention them.

Dali’s The Persistence of Memorywas one I thought deserved mention. A lot of people might not know the exact name, but they know about “that melting clock painting by the guy with the villain mustache”.

Given the internet’s perversions I bet The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife is pretty well known, online at least.

For the southern hemisphere I would suggest the Nazca geoglyphs.

Greatest? “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world” - the most eminent, in other words. Not really up for much debate, really, there are several objective measures possible there and I think you’ll find the Mona Lisa tops them all.

Best - entirely subjective, a judgement of aesthetic worth, not really up for empirical verification the way “greatest” is but still has some broad scales. My subjective criteria elevate Guernica over all other works I know (and I appreciate a very broad range of art) but if someone else says The Great Wave or a Rothko or Bosch are the best, I’m not going to argue (well, I might if their reasons for saying so were dubious, but not on pure aesthetics). If they said a Kinkade was, I’d politely ask them to get their head examined.

I’ve always personally counted technical merit as a criteria for something being the best. If I can created it at home with a bucket of paint, then its not that hard to make and can’t be the best. In this instance, a Kinkade is leagues better than a Jackson Pollock, which anyone can make. And let’s not even discuss the stupid triangles

You clearly have a scoring system that works for you, and if that involves putting a Kinkade ahead of a Pollock - hey, go for it. But clearly you recognize it is idiosyncratically your own? And that everyone else’s is different?

For any given combo of region/timeframe/art medium, there are going to be works that are generally considered the highlights. But picking a Greatest and Best? Meh.

The Girl with the Pearl Earring is often referred to as the Mona Lisa of the North. I get the nickname, but would not actually seek to judge which is Greater or which is Better.

Well I understand that all art is subjective, that’s the ironclad rule of something like art. But I should think that part of why something’s the best is that its hard to create or rare, thus is in more demand. If a million people can draw some triangles or sprinkle some paint on a canvas, then its not rare. Jackson Pollock’s stuff is not hard to duplicate, with a little bit of practice, I think its within the talent of any average person. On the other hand, I can’t paint light and shadow like Kinkade, and his stuff is pleasing to the eye more than, I suspect, the random drips of a Pollock is. Technical feat plus more pleasing is, to me, a decent criteria to judge art on.

I personally feel that many artists want to be so outre that they’ll gravitate to whatever’s new and different, eschewing the familiar for perceived boldness.

You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

What, you mean cottages clearly on fire?

I am not sure what to say - Pollock’s work is NOT easy to replicate, but am not looking to change your mind about that. His original works are seeing some of the highest prices paid, a recent exhibition at MoMA is being widely celebrated. Kinkade was openly mocked for his work and he has basically already been forgotten. I get you are referring to the basic craft of Kinkade’s painting, but it seems important to note that the “Art World” disagrees with your assertion that Kinkade’s craft is Better or Greater than Pollock’s work.

You have your preferences; cool. You are basically asking “okay, based on MY criteria for what is the Best and what is the Greatest, tell me what qualifies.”

Not at all. He’s the Dan Brown of oil painting.

Just because the art world was suckered into paying millions of dollars for paint thrown on a canvas doesn’t mean it’s great. How many fake Pollocks are there? You know why? Because anybody can throw paint on a canvas, that’s why.

As to the OP, the restrictions against buildings is making me not post so many wonderful and famous Indian sculpture because almost all of it is incorporated in the temples they built. Here is a free standing statue of Ganesh. it is part of a temple but not part of the building.

But then, what is it that makes something ‘pleasing to the eye’? Let’s take an analogy. Many people who jeer at all ‘abstract art’ do, in fact, readily appreciate it, in the form of music—a melody, a harmony are completely abstract things: they represent nothing in the world. Sure, they may evoke, perhaps even suggest; but ultimately, they are not an image of the world in the way, say, a Kinkade is. They just happen to be pleasing to the ear—because, by dint of chance or evolution, we appreciate certain ways in which sounds come together.

The same goes for sights—pretty much everybody can readily appreciate the beauty of a sunset, although it’s really just a couple of colorful swirls, bits of red and purple and orange and so on that ultimately don’t really represent anything. So most people’s sense of beauty is in fact not bound up with representation, or reproduction, but entirely capable of appreciating the abstract. Colors, just as sounds, can harmonize, or fail to, as can shapes; and in doing so, they can create tension, or suggest warmth, or evoke all manner of responses. It takes maybe a bit more habituation than it does in the case of sounds—something to do with the way stimuli in different sensory channels are processed—but there’s ultimately no real difference.

Moreover, once art was freed from the need to represent due to the invention of photography, artists became (more) free to explore what it is that makes certain sequences of colors or shapes appear beautiful. They realized that ultimately, everything we see is just some jumble of shape and color—whether they combine to some familiar form, or to something else, is in the end just a question of exposure. To an alien unfamiliar with woods or cottages, a Kinkade would be as abstract as a Pollock; so why remain in the rut of depicting things we find out there in the world? Why not create something new, something that has never been there before? Try out some new combination of color and shape, and see which qualities of such combinations evoke which responses in the viewer?

It’s not any more strange to appreciate a Pollock than it is to appreciate a symphony. There’s nothing inherent in that particular combination of colors, or that particular sequence of sounds, that makes a piece of art ‘worthy’. Neither is it in the skill with which it is produced, although skill is something that one may rightly view as admirable—no skill at all goes into the making of a sunset, or the northern lights, for instance; yet we may judge them beautiful. It’s just the fact that we, as human beings, have a particular response to particular arrangements of sounds, or colors—an alien might look at the Mona Lisa, and see nothing but colorful shapes—albeit well-crafted ones.

So that’s the difference between a Kinkade and a Pollock: a Kinkade tries to imitate some particular setting; a Pollock creates something entirely new, a way in which our senses have never been stimulated before, and which it otherwise never would have been. Whether or not your kids could paint that is entirely besides the question (and by the way, they couldn’t: computer programs exist that can reliably distinguish between fake and genuine Pollocks, so it’s not just all random paint splotches).

Of course, that’s just my way of looking at this. Somebody more versed in art history could have told you a story of how art developed to the point where it is today, with each successive generation learning as well as challenging the former, each new movement engaging with its subject matter in a different way, and so on. That’s just as valid a take on the matter. I think the only thing that’s not valid is to insist that that which is not to your appreciation hence should not be to anyone’s.

I find limiting things to just one medium very, well, limiting. If you were to list the greatest tangible works of the west, a Stradivarius violin would have to be there, as would Cellini’s Saliera. In the east, I would say a Masamune sword, among others.

Why would it be so difficult recreating a Pollock?

I’m sorry, but this or this isn’t hard. He drips paint on canvas. He throws it around. Paint lands based on luck and gravity. I doubt if you take any square inch from one of his paintings, you could ever say he meant for this line of white paint to be exactly next to this splotch of gray. The paintings even have round drops where he hovered too long and it fell due to random chance. That doesn’t take skill at all.

I just don’t think new is better.

(I responded to this part first because I think it summarizes most of the discussion)

Abstract meaning it doesn’t really look like anything, or that symbolism is so nebulous its hard to grasp the meaning, can be achieved in music too. I would say that static is the aural equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting. Its pretty random, no rhyme or reason, no pitch, nothing recognizable. But someone with an Oxford education can come along and theorize that static represents the chaos of life, or the nothingness of death, and there are people who will buy that explanation. That’s great for them, and you’re free to like it or interpret it however you wish, but its not hard to create static. If its something I can do in my house, and almost anyone can do, then it has an overabundance of supply. Its not rare, its not hard, so why are we saying its “better” art? Its non-technical “bad” art in my view (but I’ll still call it art because anything can be art). But I would object if you say its more artistic than, say, Kidz Bop. At least those kids can sing and sound like stuff more than static can.

As far as Kinkade and Pollock goes, people look at a Pollock and see what they want, in my view, so it holds a meaning for them that may be valuable. People see a Kinkade and see a house, mountains, trees, water, etc. It takes skill for him to make paint look like what he wants it to look like. It doesn’t take any for Pollock at all.

I think you’re wrong. Even a straightforward sunset can represent something. A sunset can represent the tail end of life, a sunrise is a new beginning. People don’t simply look at that and see a ball of hydrogen in space timed to a planet’s rotation.

I’m not against anything new, please don’t get me wrong. And I like your explanation that we’re free to depict things in the abstract since we have photography now. All I’m saying is that despite being new, unique, and bold, I consider Pollock paintings ugly, easy to make, not impressive. Compared to a Kinkade, even if we have photography, its inferior in every way. A cottage in the woods looks spectacular, cozy, represents an idyllic life spent with nature, with colors and flora everywhere. A real cottage exactly like that doesn’t really exist, a Kinkade in this case is still better than a photograph.

Let’s stick to man-made things instead of nature. A Pollock isn’t hard like a symphony is in music. A symphony has dozens of moving pieces creating a rhythm and melody that is expertly crafted. A Pollock is not. A Kinkade is more akin to a symphony, because you can’t paint a cottage if you’re going to have flying bricks and an upside down river and its in outer space. So each brushstroke is there for a purpose. Not many people can conceive of how to do that, and then put it into place. Pollock threw paint on canvas and let random chance splashes dictate where it went. I don’t think the two are remotely comparable

I don’t think I insisted that. Everyone can like what they like. And I know my subjectivity is my own. All things are art, even unintentional things. That is my belief. I just don’t find some people’s art to be particularly appealing because of reasons.

Just not a fan of Pollock. I like Mondrian. The “Easy Masterpiece.” I don’t see any charm to “Guernica” anywhere.