Weird artworks you've seen

There’s lots of odd things out there presented as being art. Some of it wonderful, some of it less so in the eye of this beholder. What is the weirdest, most peculiar you have ever seen?

Mine was probably an exhibit at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art. There was a double bed in the middle of the floor and the artist had hired students to take a sleeping pill and, well, sleep.

I recently was walking past a gallery and in the window there was a painting of the Brady Bunch kids all in a row by age, behind a high barbed wire fence, like a concentration camp. Don’t know if this was some current political reference or something completely different. All of the kids had smiles on their faces.

One that stuck with me (although not to the extent of remembering its name or the name of the artist) was something I saw at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. It was just a pile of wrapped hard candies on the floor in the corner with an invitation to take one. The placard said it was meant to represent the body of the artist’s lover, who had AIDS, as it diminished and disappeared.
I didn’t take one, but still… Candy!

At the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art I saw Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain”, which is just a urinal laid on its back with the signature “R. Mutt 1917” on it. I don’t think it was the original one, IIRC he made several “copies” over the years. I thought it was cool to see just because it’s probably one of the most famous examples of “weird art”, but I know there’s a lot of controversy over whether or not it’s art.

SFMOMA also has several… statues? Mannequins? Things that look like people, and they’re so lifelike they’re downright creepy. And they’re not roped off or anything, they’re just kind of standing there near the wall, so you totally mistake them for actual people at first. The first one I saw upon entering the room was dressed like a policeman, and I assumed he was a museum security guard at first. Except he was completely motionless. At which point I realize that’s not a person, it’s art. Then across the room was a construction worker standing next to a step ladder. Is he here to fix the lights or something? Nope, also art. And once you notice they’re not actually human they kind of fall into the uncanny valley. IIRC that was the artist’s way of honoring the average working class Joe or something like that.

I’m not sure if you’d consider it weird or not, but just want to share my absolute favorite piece I saw at SFMOMA: “Night Clerk at the Young Hotel” by Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz. If I understand correctly, the artists preserved the actual reception desk from this hotel prior to it being demolished and created this entire life sized tableau. It’s not only visual; there’s old country music playing from the radio on the desk. You almost feel like you’re really standing in the lobby of some crummy, run down hotel, well if it weren’t for the weird frame around the clerk’s face.

At the local “big” museum the modern “art” section has some weird stuff. E.g., one thing is just ends of an oval table top, painted primer gray, stuck on the wall.

And people are supposed to want to look at this because???

Can I nominate The Berlin Wall? After the re-opening of the border, most of the wall was torn down. For at least some of the remaining sections, artists were commissioned to create paintings on the wall. Over time (my observations from 3 years ago) “unofficial” art was added to the official pictures; and on top of this, inevitably, tagging and graffiti. So over time the great symbol of oppression has become covered with layer upon layer of freedom - starting with commissioned art and then growing organically.

In large part I disliked Berlin - it’s a really oppressive city - but this art, which we found on the last day, turned the visit around for me. It’s very moving.


I worked in the mailroom at the National Endowment for the Arts during Serrano & Mapplethorpe. 'Nuff said.

The little city where I live has several of these… all realistic but some with unnatural skin tones. If you follow this link, near the bottom of the page is a section on Public Art where you can see them. I think the cop one was moved because many people were stopping for him.

Possibly pieces by Duane Hansen? He was really good at making those lifelike figures. I believe the Nelson-Atkins museum of art in Kansas City has the museum guard.

Back in the days after I had graduated from college but was still looking for a “real job”, I spent some time working in the cafeteria at Yellow Freight HQ. They had quite the art collection at the building, including a Duane Hansen figure of a truck driver sitting at a table in the lobby, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper.

Weirdest has to be a large white room with two very large folding tables. Both filled with ordinary russet potatoes. Just piled with them. A few thin wires running from the top of each table to a very basic analog volt meter hanging from the ceiling, registering some voltage, as it would. This was part of a modern art display in a modern art museum, not an elementary school science fair. Yeah, still scratching my head about that one, even though it was explained to me. Art. Go figure.

That’s similar in concept, except the ones at SFMOMA are wearing actual clothes as I recall. So I guess they’re more like mannequins in that sense.

Ah, I found one of them in their database. It’s “Policeman” by Duane Hanson. Can’t find the construction worker; maybe he’s not in their collection anymore. But this looks like the one I saw.

Yes. You posted while I was busy researching them myself.

I went to the Jeff Koons, exhibit when it was in Whitney Museum in NYC several years ago. Jeff holds the record for the highest paid for a work of art for a living artist, $91MM.

He is a very broad artist, paintings, sculptures, photographs mostly in the pop culture vein.

The Whitney exhibit IIRC, covered a few floors of the building. There was one section that was walled off with warning signs, that contained photographs, that he took of he and his former wife, Cicciolina, an Italian porn star. The photos were massive, approximately 10’x30’ or larger of close-ups of their genitalia before, during and after them having sex.

It was me and a few of our co-workers of both sexes that happened to be visiting the exhibit that day. Needless to say the dinner conversation was different that evening.

At Frostburg State University in western Maryland in the 1990’s, there was a sculpture in front of the Fine Arts building. It was a car door with the leafless stems of a bush shoved through the window opening. The bush was big enough to fill the opening completely and what stuck out took take the shape of the opening.
There was another sculpture added while I attended that was just some bright silver curved pipes and other shapes. Students hated it, and quickly bent at least one pipe.

Ours are all outside so real clothes wouldn’t work out so well. They are fun though, and placed in appropriate places. The lady with the groceries is right outside of a butcher shop (my favorite butcher shop by the way), the guy with the violin is by a music store (my son always checked his case and often found real bills tossed in), the cop is at an intersection, the kid on his dad’s shoulders is by a candy store, etc.

Seems more like one not stopping. :wink:

There’s one in Montgomery County, MD, as well.

Some years ago, at the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice, I saw a work that was a simple canvas, painted a cream colour, and with a long diagonal cut near the centre.

I was mesmerised. To this day I don’t know why…but I stood there staring at it for at least ten minutes.

There were other works by the same artist, all of them blank canvases with one or more cuts, but none of them affected me the same way. Strange.

Weirdest I’ve seen was at the Milwaukee Art Museum, which was a periscope-looking lens facing downward in the middle of the floor. When you look into it, it appears that you’re looking into a hole about 10 deep deep with running water at the bottom and the sound of people whistling and some rocks and a fishing line floating in the water (perhaps even a leg). To me it seemed to represent the naivety of the newly born child, and as far as its medium goes, it was the most unique artwork I recall experiencing.

Some other ones I’ve seen:

– An empty hallway with a labyrinth pattern on the floor with dancers slowly dancing in the pattern.
– Someone stopped me as I was entering an art hallway and asked me my name and when I said Ludovic McLudson, he repeated in a booming voice “ENTERING LUDOVIC MCLUDSON”, which he did for everyone who entered the hall. I’m mostly certain it was performance art.


I saw a whole tableau of a crowd scene made with brown craft paper. The only reason I know it was a crowd scene is cause the card said so. It looked like trash. In fact there was a McDonald’s French fry wrapper thrown in there. Not sure if was done by the artist or a passer-by. It was inspired. It added a little something to the crowd scene.