17-year-old TJ Khayatan and his friends were quite unimpressed with an ongoing exhibition at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). So unimpressed in fact, that they decided to make it better by adding their own artwork to the show. The group conducted an entertaining and (as it turned out) very successful art prank by placing a pair of glasses onto the floor and pretending that it was a part of the exhibition. The item immediate captured the attention of the crowd that gathered around the "artwork" and even took photos of the "art piece". This entertaining art prank got people laughing but also left them wondering : why is it so easy to mistake a random object for art?
LMAO WE PUT GLASSES ON THE FLOOR AT AN ART GALLERY AND... pic.twitter.com/7TYoHPtjP8
— teejay (@TJCruda) May 24, 2016
TJ Khayatan placed the images of his prank on his Twiter profile and the joke struck a chord with the public and caused thousands of comments by users. While some confessed that they would probably fall for a joke themselves because they "just don't get modern art", others went as far to say that the act symbolizes the downfall of the entire genre. SquirrelHound, for instance, tweeted that the only reason why the art prank worked is because "modern art is fucking stupid but it's a perfect scam to gain money from idiot's". Others, however, believe that there's something truly artistic about this act. One Twitter user saw a deeper meaning in the prank that could represent "an exacerbated metaphor of society's perpetual blindness to those cognitive of us" while another user Rick Pelton is wondering whether the artworks represent's "lowering the vision of our future?". The San Francisco Museum of Modern art had a good sense of humor about it as well and replied with a Tweet that compared TJ Khayatan with the celebrated artist Marcel Duchamp.
— SFMOMA (@SFMOMA) May 26, 2016
All jokes aside, it's not always easy to tell the difference between what's art and what's ... not art. Recently a group of cleaners disposed of an entire exhibition which they mistook for garbage. In 2015 celebrated artist and filmmaker Joe Gibbons tried to get away with a bank robbery by claiming that it was, in fact, performance art. The court was not impressed with the "performance" and sentenced the artist to a year in prison. It's not easy for experts either. Last year a TV host pulled of an art prank of his own, when he asked several art experts in Netherlands to assess a value of an artwork by "the famous Swedish painter Ike Andrews". The piece was in fact, a $15 worth IKEA print but it was valued by an expert at between $300 and $30 000.
With so many things constantly being labeled as art how can people tell the difference between an artwork and a joke? Well, maybe they can not! Just like the beauty itself, the value of art is in the eyes of the beholder, and it speaks more to the hearts than to the minds of the viewers. TJ Khayatan himself had mixed feelings about the whole situation in the end “Some may interpret it as a joke, some might find great spiritual meaning in it. At the end of the day, I see it as a pleasure for open-minded people and imaginative minds.”- the prankster stated for The BuzzFeed. Who knows, maybe there's something about that glasses after all! Let's be fair, they did look quite captivating in all of their simplicity. The group tried similar pranks before by adding various items to the floor (a baseball hat, for example) but none got the attention that the glasses enjoyed. Maybe SFMOMA should consider keeping them as the part of the permanent collection, if not for any other reason then to remind us all that we shouldn't take art, (or life for that matter) too seriously.
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Featured images : TJ Khayatan placing a Gllasses onto the Floor; Art prank at SFMOMA ; All images via TJ Khayatan's Twitter account