Ragnar Kjartansson Pranks Yoko Ono at Her Own Show With Sly ‘Simpsons’ Reference

You'll never see a plum the same way again.

Yoko Ono on "The Simpsons" in 1993. Photo: Film still via YouTube.

Did Yoko Ono just get pranked by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson at her own exhibition?

When the Japanese conceptual artist invited fellow artists to contribute “a vessel for the water to give to specific people” to her exhibition at Iceland’s Reykjavik Art Museum, Kjartansson responded by submitting a proposal for A Single Plum, Floating in Perfume, Served in a Man’s Hat. 

If that sounds familiar, the Huffington Post points out, it’s because the concoction was ordered in a 1993 episode of The Simpsons by a character with a striking resemblance to Ono.

According to the Icelander’s New York gallery, Luhring Augustine, Kjartansson’s “works are connected through their pathos and humor, with each deeply influenced by the comedy and tragedy of classical theater.”

The Japanese artist was either blissfully unaware of Kjartansson’s tongue-in-cheek reference or found it sufficiently amusing to include it in the exhibition.

The internet certainly saw the funny side of his latest piece as social media users debated over whether or not Ono understood the reference, or if the joke was on her. Others reveled in the opportunity to poke fun at the art world’s perceived pretentiousness and exclusivity.

Either way, Kjartansson does a great job at using references from pop culture to peel back the layers of the art world, revealing its ability to laugh at itself. He brings a little bit of lighthearted jest and dialogue into the über serious realm of conceptual contemporary art, which is typically characterized by abstract ideas and the subordinated importance of the object. As a result, Kjartansson’s work makes conceptual art, often a tough sell for those outside the contemporary art fold, a little bit more accessible.

The Icelandic survey exhibition includes the artist’s own work, as well as a selection of pieces by other artists curated by Ono, and looks back at the iconic conceptual artist’s career.

Yoko Ono: One More Story…” is on view at the Reykjavik Art Museum, Tryggvagata 17, Reykjavik, October 7, 2016–February 5, 2017. 

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