The art world can be a very serious place. Open any random article on Artforum and you’re basically deciphering another language: what exactly are “wry emblems of mobility and of the artist’s institutional appropriation”? Your guess is as good as mine (and probably as good as the writer’s).
Of course, you went to art school (or have the “equivalent work experience”) precisely so you could make meaning out of a group of words that no human would ever say out loud in a casual sentence. And so much of contemporary art deals with heavy social issues and deep existential questions that call for a vocabulary to match.
But does that have to make the art world allergic to humor and fun in all its forms? Are we doomed to take ourselves way too seriously, leaving all jokes to people on the outside making fun of the whole thing? This (admittedly hilarious) Monty Python bit pretty much sums up the public perception of the art world, and tbh, it’s spot on. Are we all secretly The Square’s Christian, the museum curator who is so self-involved he wouldn’t know a joke if it flashed him on the train? And don’t forget that super cringey scene where he fumbled trying to explain some jargon from his museum’s website to a journalist.
Here at The Art Gorgeous, we think not. A lighthearted take on the art world is our whole M.O., so we did a little digging and found tons of people, from artists to critics to bloggers, who bring in a breath of fresh air in the form of humor.
These people aren’t afraid to throw a few jokes on the canvas, sometimes to get a point across, sometimes just for the giggles. From the series you studied but forgot all about to the new IG accounts you’ve never heard of, here’s our art world humor roundup. And no, Jerry Saltz is not on this list—if you’re reading this, there’s a 99.9% chance you already know all about him and his IG.
After an early career of controversy and plagiarism accusations, Prince broke into the mainstream with a series of corny one-liner jokes poking fun at middle-class Americana. The first works were just a sentence on a piece of paper, sold for $10, but he eventually upgraded to paint on canvas. This summer, London’s Skarstedt Gallery showed a collection of early joke paintings, although Prince controversially tweeted that he had “nothing to do with this show.” Classic art world drama.
Tbh, not really sure what’s going on here. James Franco has a definite track record of taking himself very seriously, but come on, these are hilarious, right? Whether the joke was intentional or not, it’s hard to look at the Fat Animals series without bursting out laughing. Even better, read Franco’s artist statement: “The fat animals are us.” … “I too am a fat animal.” He has a point—in this day and age, we are all living unnatural lives—but talk about an artistic choice. Sadly, all the prints are sold out, but maybe you can score one on eBay.
This anonymous IG account has been churning out genius content somewhere between memes and art for years, and lately, the Internet has noticed. The Yellow Haired Girl has a knack for taking images of old-school femininity and adding the perfect captions to make you laugh, cry or cringe. She tackles everything from panic attacks, sleeping with your piece of shit ex when you know you shouldn’t, to the 9-5 grind, all while hitting at some very deep conflicts in the life of the modern woman. Half guilty pleasure, half “oh shit, this is a little too real,” this account is guaranteed to make you rethink you life choices… and possibly pee yourself laughing on the freeway.
LA-based artist Gabriella Abrao runs a killer IG page: part first world / art memes, part existential musings, part inspiration for mental health struggles, part pure transcendence. It’s one of those rare accounts that is just random enough to feel authentic without being scattered. I guarantee you’ll immediately feel like Gabi is your hilarious but wise best friend who will give you a pep talk but also tell you when you’re full of shit. And her art’s not bad, either.
Follow Los Angeles Times art critic Carolina Miranda on Twitter if you’re into smart, feminist takes on the art world, current events commentary, great jokes or all of the above. And occasional pics of sunbathing pitbulls. You’re welcome.
Photos via YouTube, Reddit, Treason Gallery, @yellowhairedgirl, @sighswoon, @cmonstah (Twitter)