Astrology is having a comeback, but it’s been around for millennia. In a world of bomb threats and Brexit, AI and climate change, who can resist falling back on an ancient method that explains every aspect of life? That’s where the signs of the Zodiac come in.
Whether you seriously check your horoscope every day or think it’s all a giant scam, you can’t deny that astrology is good fun. And with countless apps and meme accounts dedicated to astrology, it’s easier than ever to get your daily horoscope—and then some.
One of the most popular meme formats involves taking a scenario and adapting it to each horoscope. It’s inclusive and drags everyone equally at the same time—what could be better?
But to get into the fun of horoscope jokes (you know you want to), you first need to know what they are. Back in the fall, we published our Ultimate Art World Astro Guide, which you should totally check out. Think of this as art world astro guide 2.0; now that you know what the signs are, we’re digging a little deeper, giving you a bit more to chew on. Since we all understand things best in terms of what we know best, we decided to demystify the Zodiac by pairing each sign with its spirit artwork.
PS. This article pairs perfectly with Not All Geminis’ Zodiac playlists on Spotify.
Natalia Goncharova, The Cyclist (1913).
If you felt some aggressive vibes around you last month, you know why. The sun was in Aeries, which also happens to be first sign of the Zodiac. Symbolized by the bull, Aeries is active and energetic. If you were born during Aeries season, chances are you know what you want and aren’t afraid to go after it—and you don’t care whose toes you step on along the way. Think of your boss at your first gallery internship who kind of scared the shit out of you, but in the best way. Is the inspirational or just plain terrifying? Hard to say, but she’s somehow mastered the art of living solely off oat milk lattes (which you humbly fetch) and her own intimidation factor. If there was an Aeries anthem, it would be “POWER” by Kanye West.
With its focus on movement and energy, futurism is the Aeries of art movements. Cyclist by Natalia Goncharova perfectly captures the Aeries vibe: head down, barreling into the future at full speed.
Claude Monet, Camille Monet and a Child in the Artist’s Garden in Argenteuil (1875).
Solid and sensual, Taurus is the friend you brunch with—and the friend that calms you down from art fair-induced panic attacks. A little lazy, they know how to savor the finer things in life. If you have a one-night stand with a Taurus, you’ll probably spend the whole next day in bed eating Postmates bagels. From the best bagel spot in town, of course, because Taurus won’t settle for anything but the best.
While Rococo is the go-to art movement for all things sensual, it’s a little too frilly for down-to-earth Taurus. Plus, playing with people’s hearts was basically the national sport in France under the Louises, and Taurus would just rather not. In life and in love, they prefer all things stable and dependable.
Actually, the best spiritual match for the Taurus would have to be impressionism. Impressionist works are sensual in the most literal way: they try to capture light and color the way the senses perceive them. In true Taurus style, impressionist works usually take simple and beautiful things as their subject, whether it’s a woman in a café, a city cathedral, the curve of a ballerina’s forearms or the setting sun on a haystack. Finally, many impressionists, like Monet and Cassatt, painted their close loved ones, which family-oriented Taurus is all about.
Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar (1937).
In the wise words of Costar, an astrology app that lets you compare horoscopes with your friends, Gemini is the partner most likely to leave you for the lead singer of the Strokes. Geminis might have the best intentions, but the problem is that they have too many of them. This is the friend who landed in the art world after brief careers as a hairstylist, a dental student, a physical therapist/DJ and an economic journalist. With Geminis, you’re better off if you don’t ask and just go with their crazy flow.
Charming and sociable, Geminis are the life of the party. They’re also great communicators and have a huge intellectual streak. If you get placed next to a Gemini at a gallery dinner, you know you’re in for a whirlwind of a night.
Insanely creative and adaptable, Picasso captures the Gemini spirit even though his birthday is in October. Over his long and productive career, he dabbled in pretty much every style and every media under the sun, including the ones he invented. Out of his multitude of styles, Cubism probably best captured the Gemini vibe, which is fractured, a bit frantic and definitely all over the place. Geminis are known for their dual personality, and this portrait of Dora Maar captures exactly that: she is shown as literally two-faced.
Sophie Calle, Take Care of Yourself (2007).
Breakup email text from Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself (2007).
Once you crack their shells, Cancers are the softest bbs around. A bit like Taurus, Cancers value comfort and stability. You’re more likely to catch a Cancer snuggled up on the couch with some homemade cookies, catching up on Queer Eye on a Friday night than at the club. Their sensitivity gives many Cancers a strong creative streak, but unlike Geminis, their shyness may make them reluctant to share their gifts with the world.
Naturally nurturing, your Cancer friend is probably the mom of the group, the one who texts you to make sure you got home okay and Postmates you soup from your favorite market when you get sick. Sexy and brooding but ultimately a sweetheart underneath, Lana del Rey is the ultimate Cancer queen.
While Tracey Emin is the quintessential Cancer artist (she actually is a Cancer, folks), no artwork captures the Cancer ethos better than Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself (2007). If you have a close Cancer friend, you better believe that you’ll be called on to help dissect and interpret any and all emails from crushes, exes, potential friends and even clients—and craft painstaking responses.
Yes, you will want to hang yourself after 30 minutes spent poring over a seven-word message, but if you value your friendship, you’ll play along. Cancers are not ones to brush emotional wounds under the rug, so before you break up with one over email, you should think long and hard whether you want that email analyzed and interpreted by 107 strangers and put up for the whole world to see at the Venice Biennial.
Hannah Wilke, S.O.S. – Starification Object Series (1974-82).
Like their spirit animal, the lion, Leos are regal and a little haughty. Wherever they are, you know they’ll be in the spotlight. Luckily, Leos have dreams and principles as big as their egos, making them work hard for the common good. If you want to piss a Leo off, forget to thank them profusely after they buy you a coffee or pick up your dry cleaning.
Although she was born in March, Hannah Wilke is the perfect example of a Leo artist at work. A pioneering feminist artist who used her naked body over and over in her work, she was accused of being narcissistic. To be fair, this was probably mainly because she was pretty—if you’re anything other than the ideal shape and size, showing off your nude body is called “brave.” Either way, joke’s on the haters, because Wilke’s art was about something much bigger than her boobs: women’s liberation.
Georges Seurat, The Young Woman Powdering Herself (1889 – 1890).
Meticulous, hardworking but a little uptight, Virgos are in higher demand in the workplace than in the bedroom. But their humble and sweet nature makes them great friends who will help you organize your life—and your sock drawer—when you’re overwhelmed with deadlines. When it comes to visionary ideas, Virgos might not be the next Elon Musk, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By all signs, the world seems to be capping out its capacity of Elon Musks. Virgos are happiest when they can bury their heads in a project, and you can trust them to make sure every gift bag at the gala has the correct number of Aesop samples.
No art style is a better match for Virgo’s detail-oriented nature than pointillism. Think about what kind of person sits in front of a canvas for hours, patiently applying little dots that have to be just the right color and in just the right spot for the whole thing to come together into a painting.
Angelica Kauffman, Christ and the Samaritan Woman (1796).
Like the scales are their symbol, Libras are all about justice and equality. This makes them great listeners—but not so great decision makers. Libras can come off as flaky or insincere because they value keeping the peace over taking a stand. When it comes to smoothing over a Cancer’s hurt feelings or calming down a wound-up Virgo, Libras are always up to the task. But if you’re dating a Libra, beware—their indecisive nature means that they’re probably dating 13 other people at the same time. Even if they could decide who they like best, they couldn’t stand to disappoint the other 12.
The artistic companion of Enlightenment ideology, Neoclassicism is the best match for Libra’s sensibility. On an aesthetic and a visual level, Neoclassical art sought harmony and stability. One of the more intellectual art styles, Neoclassicism, like Libra, was very concerned with creating morality and justice in society.
In Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the well, Angelica Kauffman painted a Biblical story in which Jesus reveals himself as the prophet to a Samaritan woman, who spreads the word of his teaching. It’s a story about harmony between two hostile populations, Jews and Samaritans, and about truth and morality—a few of Libra’s favorite things.
William Blake, The Lovers Whirlwind (1824-1827). Illustration to Dante’s The Divine Comedy.
Like Libra, Scorpios care a lot about all of life’s big questions, but unlike Libra, their search for truth usually makes them totally unhinged. Scorpios are known for being secretive, moody and intense. Don’t try to make small talk with a Scorpio at a gallery opening—you’ll either get snugged or drawn into a heated, four-hour long discussion that careens between Bauhaus, Bataille and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Symbolism and surrealism are both great visual representations of the inside of a Scorpio’s head, but symbolism takes the cake for its drama factor. Moody, sexy and otherworldly, the Symbolists were all Scorpios are heart. Their artwork gives you a sense of what it’s like to go through life as a Scorpio: every day looks like a chapter of Dante, an endless landscape of trials and triumphs of cosmic proportions.
Sandro Botticelli, The Mystical Nativity (1500).
Cheerful, outgoing and idealistic, Sagittarius is the most likely to get roofied at a party, but only because of their tremendous faith in people. Accept a drink from a pervy stranger? Sure! We’re all just luminous souls floating through this material world, after all.
A fire sign, Sagittarius can easily get irritable and angry, but they usually bounce back quickly. But for all their lofty ideals, they aren’t so great when it comes to reliability—and allergic to routines.
Bright, cheerful and full of lofty ideals, the Renaissance captures the Sagittarian spirit. Sagittarians float through life on a cloud of optimism, always trying to transcend to the highest levels of experience. If a Sagittarian were a character in a painting, it would be one of the angels floating near the top of Botticelli’s Mystical Nativity.
Marianne Brandt, Teapot (1924).
Hardworking and serious, Capricorn is the friend that always has their shit together. Less humble than Virgo and less flashy than Leo, Capricorns have their eyes set on the prize, whatever it may be for them. And while Sagittarius has her head in the clouds, Capricorn is down to earth, focused more on material goals than on grandiose ideas.
David Bowie aside, Capricorns aren’t usually the most flamboyant or emotional sign, but they do need a little love here and there. With their independent personality and aloof, even cold aura, they can get a little lonely, even if they don’t show it.
If a Capricorn strays into the art world, you better believe it’s going to still be practical. That’s why Capricorn and the Bauhaus are the perfect match. With its sleek and tasteful silhouettes and extensive real-word applications, Bauhaus is the Capricorn of art movements. Marianne Brandt’s teapot, with its modern, understated luxury, would fit in perfectly in any Capricorn’s home.
As aloof as Capricorn and as idealistic as Sagittarius, Aquarius is the intellectual dreamer of the zodiac. This is your “quirky” friend that couldn’t care less about society’s roles and expectations. They say that the world is entering the Age of Aquarius, which means embracing values of progress, intellect, individualism, innovation and visionary change in the service of humanity. Things we all desperately need in today’s world.
Artists are Aquarian spirits by definition, but when it comes to values, some come closer than others. Cerebral and more than a little weird, Meret Oppenheim is the quintessential Aquarius. Her work can be loosely labeled as surrealist, but although she ran around with the likes of Man Ray and André Breton, her art defies categorization. Although everyone has seen Object at one point or another, the rest of her work might require more than a little pondering to figure out, which is exactly how an Aquarius would want it. If something doesn’t take three hours and a sub-genius IQ to figure out, it’s probably not worth pondering in the first place.
Andres Serrano, Piss Christ (1987).
The last sign of the Zodiac, Pisces takes a pinch from all of the other signs. This makes for a very rich and layered personality, or, in other words, a clusterfuck of emotions and traits. As the world enters the Age of the Aquarius, it’s leaving the Age of Pisces, which values religion and mysticism, but also money, power and control. Since Pisces is a dualistic sign, it contains a sharp split between the material and the spiritual, a divide that is being wiped away with the Age of Aquarius.
Sensitive, dreamy and long-suffering, Pisces is one of the most artistic signs. Pisces usually couldn’t care less about climbing the corporate ladder, so you’re more likely to find one holding a paintbrush than running the Guggenheim. They’re also very concerned with humanitarian issues and tend to be altruistic—the friend who buys Subway sandwiches for the homeless twice a week. They might come off as a bit wishy-washy and unreliable to more down-to-earth signs, but that’s just part of the Pisces charm.
Since its symbol is the fish, Pisces is closely associated with Christianity. Most people think pre-modern art when they think of religion, but actually, it’s not a Renaissance fresco but a modern photograph that best captures the essence of Pisces. Andres Serrano’s lovely and super controversial Piss Christ was widely condemned as irreverent, when actually, Serrano is a Christian critiquing how society has twisted Christ’s teachings to fit their own selfish and corrupt purposes. The haunting, emotional, slightly angsty and extremely misunderstood nature of the artwork puts it squarely into Pisces territory.
Text by Katya Lopatko.
Images via WikiArt, Paula Cooper Gallery, Steve Middlehurst Context and Narrative, MoMA, Pinterest, Dazed.