5 April Fool’s Pranks Inspired by Art

Take inspiration from these jokey artists.

Cindy Sherman, The Lily Sarah Grace Portfolio (2013). Courtesy of Carolina Nitsch Contemporary Art.

Just in time for April Fool’s, we’ve rounded up a list of artists whose playful works remind you that can’t always trust your eyes. Don’t be tricked by what you initially thought you saw—slow down, and take the time to appreciate these altered perceptions of reality. While your friends are busy saran wrapping your toilet, take your own pranks to a more sophisticated level by channeling the following artists.

Yrjö Edelmann, A More Powerful Way of Defining Trompe L’Oeil (2015). Courtesy of Scott Richards Contemporary Art.

Yrjö Edelmann, A More Powerful Way of Defining Trompe L’Oeil (2015). Courtesy of Scott Richards Contemporary Art.

Take a close look at Yrjö Edelmann’s photorealistic paintings, such as his compelling A More Powerful Way of Defining Trompe L’Oeil. His works may be contemporary, but they notably employ techniques used by Old Masters to achieve an illusionary 3-D effect. At first glance, viewers may question whether this piece is a sculpture or a painting—use this to your advantage by telling your significant other that you left a gift for them in the bedroom. Sit back and enjoy their confusion while they try and unwrap it, and pat yourself on the back for an excellent execution of a prank.

Sarah Oppenheimer, installation view. Courtesy of von Bartha.

Sarah Oppenheimer, installation view. Courtesy of von Bartha.

Not into paintings? Strategically place these Sarah Oppenheimer sculptures around your house to create a disorienting maze. Invite your pals over to admire your latest art acquisition, and silently laugh as they trip over it (because you’re a good friend and laughing out loud would be mean). From afar, Oppenheimer’s works are translucent, and their lighting and positioning allow them to totally disappear from certain angles. Just make sure the joke isn’t on you and no one breaks anything.

Cindy Sherman, The Lily Sarah Grace Portfolio (2013). Courtesy of Carolina Nitsch Contemporary Art.

Cindy Sherman, The Lily Sarah Grace Portfolio (2013). Courtesy of Carolina Nitsch Contemporary Art.

Photographer Cindy Sherman is well known for tricking her viewers with a range of costumes and characters, most notably her landmark Film Stills series. For this April Fool’s, take a page out of her book and assume a new identity, then pretend like nothing happened. If anyone questions your appearance, don’t break character! Sherman’s attention to detail and setting are what convinces viewers that they are looking at an authentic scene. Even if you can’t fool your friends, you’ll be sure to fool others on the street, and that counts as a prank, right?

Janis Avotins, Untitled (2013). Courtesy of Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle.

Janis Avotins, Untitled (2013). Courtesy of Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle.

What do you see when you look at this painting? A father and son? A bachelor in coattails? An animal on its hind legs? Similar to Rorschach tests, Latvian artist Janis Avotins leaves the interpretation of his works up for debate. Enjoy an eerie April first, and put this painting in a dark room and scare the living daylight out of your unsuspecting guests.

Franz West, Installation view III (2015). Courtesy of Galerie Eva Presenhuber.

Franz West, Installation view III (2015). Courtesy of Galerie Eva Presenhuber.

For a truly a dedicated prankster, we suggest hosting a dinner party with furniture by Franz West and putting up signs that read: “Installation: Do Not Sit.” West defines his furniture as sculpture and plays with the question, what is design and what is art? He succeeds at blending both disciplines by making something that is normally straightforward into something abstract and ambiguous. See if your friends play into the trick and ask where the installation is, then watch them struggle to eat dinner while standing. Flawless joke. Pour yourself a drink.


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