The Onion’s Top 12 Art World Parodies

Get ready for a good laugh at your own expense.

" Children of all ages enjoy the numerous exhibits on display at the Robert Mapplethorpe Children’s Museum."
Photo: Courtesy The Onion.

” The NEA says the grants will provide 5,000 struggling artists with the funding they need to succeed in retail, the service industry, or any other non-artistic pursuit of their choosing.”
Photo: Courtesy The Onion.

You may remember this summer when the satirical news site The Onion ran an article in which a fictional museum visitor complains about the glaring absence of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Taking the jab in stride, the MFA published a perfect response on Twitter (see “MFA Boston Apologizes for Not Having a Mona Lisa“).

The website recently prodded another art museum, Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which was mocked in an article headlined “Museum Proudly Exhibits Picasso Shitty Enough To Be In Kansas City.” It turns out the Nelson-Atkins actually owns 12 Picassos, and none of them are all that shitty. But museum director Julian Zugazagoitia took it in stride, telling local news outlet KCUR, “To be called out by The Onion indicates that the Nelson-Atkins is on the national radar. Here in Kansas City, we know how to take a ribbing, even one that is not BBQ-related.”

In honor of The Onion‘s great gift for art world satire and the good-humored responses to them, we’ve rounded up our favorite art parodies from the site, offering our takes on them as we go.

1. National Endowment For The Arts & Crafts Criticized For Funding Giant Macrame Penis
Excerpt: “The $15,000 grant in question was awarded last October to Detroit arts & craftsman Albert Kahle, 39, for a nine-foot macramé penis titled Father (By Mother), which is currently part of the ‘Macramazement!’ exhibit at the prestigious National Gallery Of Arts & Crafts in Kansas City, MO.”

Our Take: If we could get the exhibition catalogue for this amazingly titled show, we would be very macramateful.

2. Robert Mapplethorpe Children’s Museum Celebrates Grand Opening
Excerpt: “According to employees, the museum’s most popular attraction is the Coprophagia Activity Center. The walk-through exhibit, in which patrons travel down tunnels of spread-eagle nude figures, create virtual representations of fecal matter on interactive touch screens, and ride a fireman’s pole into a mouth-shaped ball pit, was reportedly funded with a $40 million grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.”

Our Take: We’re fairly certain that the Museum of Sex is working on making this installation a reality at this very moment.

3.  Non-Controversial Christ Painting Under Fire From Art Community
Excerpt: “‘Perhaps we can reach some sort of compromise,’ Anderson said. ‘I don’t want to go so far as to soak the painting in the menstrual blood of a 13-year-old girl, as some have demanded, but I’m open to other suggestions. We might be able to scare up a pint or two of rhino vomit to splash on the canvas’…”

Our Take: Is a little rhino throw up really too much to ask?

4. Magical Art Gallery Transforms Dull Objects Into Art
Excerpt: “‘Seth Clayton’s devastating Untitled No. 7 captures the despair of urban ennui in a way that’s post-ironic yet somehow pre-pomo,’ said David E. Sherry, owner of the David E. Sherry Gallery, while admiring a rusty bucket and tattered boot lying on the gallery floor. ‘Its eloquence is truly heartbreaking.'”

Our Take: We’re accepting suggestions for what exactly art from the “pre-pomo” movement would resemble.

5. “Art Imitates Life Imitates Art,” Remarks Man Trapped In Art Museum
Excerpt: “’It is curious to note the way in which art reflects the vagaries of existence and the human condition, just as existence itself often seems to directly echo or reflect the motifs expressed in art,’ pondered the frantic, nearly hysterical man as he bounded down a service stairwell and repeatedly threw his weight against a door labeled ‘street exit.'”

Our Take:  Who hasn’t had the mind-bending experience of becoming simultaneously physically stuck in a large building and mentally caught in an excruciating art/life Ouroboros? The obvious solution is to stop going to museums under the influence, but that’s asking a lot.

6. Working Artist Has Developed Thick Skin For Sound Career Advise 
Excerpt: “’It’s not easy, but after a while you just have to put on the blinders and shrug off all the insightful advice that, if implemented, would help you live more comfortably and thrive as an artist.’ Chilton added that he has also developed a thick skin for people who look at the prices of his artwork, scoff, and then walk out of his studio.”

Our Take: While art history is full of examples of people who were all the wiser (and often richer) for ignoring the “sound” advice of those around them, present-day hipster communities and undergraduate art classrooms tend to be full of examples of people who should consider this advice.


“Many art teachers say they’ve been forced to make do with just one case of latex diaphragms for the entire academic year.”
Photo: Courtesy The Onion.

7. Report: Many U.S. Schools Can’t Afford Mannequins, Human Urine For Art Classes
Excerpt: “Educators said that in order to complete the simplest of mixed-media projects decrying American corporate hegemony, students are forced to hold year-round bake sales and other fundraisers so their art programs can afford all the necessary fiberglass shark heads and rolls of packing tape. Even the youngest schoolchildren, they acknowledged, are routinely tasked with collecting their own sacks of human hair and nail clippings…According to the report, parents are regularly called upon to donate old television sets so their children can deconstruct the emptiness of modern consumer culture, while local businesses often provide the hundreds of gallons of used motor oil art students pour over their heads as part of a stark meditation on America’s obsession with violence.”

Our Take: The Onion‘s most recent joke on contemporary art is also one of its sharpest, simultaneously mocking the tired tricks of the trade and advocating for better funding for arts education in public schools.

8. I Don’t Have Time For Noncontroversial Art Exhibits
Excerpt: “It’s no easy schedule, but if I’m going to keep on top of this year’s Piss-Christs, I can’t be dillydallying. It’s got to be bim, bam, human fetus in a Coke bottle. No time for second-guessing or slowly soaking in the dynamic, geometric tension of the upcoming Cézanne retrospective. Not while there’s a guy in the East Village who’s going to vomit Cheerios into a piggy bank and smash it open with his penis.”

Our Take: This is how Internet art journalists feel all of the time.

9. Shitty Graffiti Artist Captures 19-Year-Old Girl’s Heart
Excerpt: “After Zane spoke at length about the overpriced street-fashion clothing line his friend and fellow shitty graffiti artist Acid Flexx had started, he reportedly walked the enraptured Tisselo to a nearby disgusting alleyway to see some of his work, which included several pathetic attempts at a shadowed version of his tag, and what Tisselo described as ‘something that probably started out as a boom box, but became a crappy-looking UFO.'”

Our Take: We blame Banksy.

10. Mediocre Painter’s True Talent Lies In Acting Like A Painter
Excerpt: “But I went anyway, just to see him throw a fit over the lighting in the gallery. He’s very good at that sort of thing.”

Our Take: You know what they say: Those who can’t do, complain.

11. National Endowment For The Arts Provides $80 Million To Discourage Talentless Hacks
Excerpt: “The independent federal agency said it intends to provide the nation’s exceptionally unskilled and deluded artists with cash grants ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 in order to sway them from continuing with their derivative and atrocious work…”

Our Take: Get real. The National Endowment for the Arts doesn’t have $80 million dollars to blow on a single initiative.

12. Congress Accidentally Approves Arts Funding
Excerpt: “‘We approved what?’ said Frist upon learning of the inadvertent arts funding. ‘I don’t recall putting my name on anything like that. Any funding of the arts was purely accidental. I repeat, any financial support of artists, musicians, or writers on my part was done unwittingly and unknowingly.'”

Our Take: That’s more like it.

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