• Erika Lee

Controversial Art for the Win?

Eventually, we all come across art that we do not agree with. Art that disturbs and infuriates us. Art not worthy of being displayed. Art that prompts us to question its formidable existence, to question whether it should continue being exhibited or be destroyed. Ironically, despite the criticism they receive, many of these works today are considered to be some of the best artworks in history.

These six photos are a collection of some controversial works that the EXPRESS team decided to put to the test. A survey showcasing each of these images with the underlying question, "is this acceptable?", was posted on the EXPRESS Magazine's Instagram page.

Featured Works:

  1. Los Intocables (The Untouchables) ~ Erik Ravelo

  2. Myra ~ Marcus Harvey

  3. Graffiti Art ~ Unknown Artist

  4. Sex with Refugees is Jasmine-scented and Beautiful ~ Robert Montgomery

  5. Malaysian Pride Portraits at the Annual Georgetown Festival in Penang ~ Joe Sidek

  6. In Defense of Pleasure ~ Lith Ng

After a handful of responses, the general consensus was that all of these artworks should be deemed acceptable, though some of them did spark some disagreement.


In Defense of Pleasure by Lith Ng

In response to addressing the sexual identity of women in conservative communities, Lith Ng created an installation called In Defense of Pleasure. Based on survey results, 86.4% of the people responded stating that Lith Ng’s art should be acceptable while the other 9.1% of people disagreed. This installation consisted of condoms filled with resin and a slip of paper describing a woman’s personal sexual experience. Ultimately, the artist was interested in seeing how society views men and women differently. Her goal with the installation was to create art that provoked and motivated people, one that expressed her feelings and emotions the best.


Los Intocables (The Untouchables) by Erika Ravelo

Erik Ravelo’s Los Intocables depict a child being crucified on the back of an adult with each scene attempting to tell a different story about the loss of innocence. 90.9% of respondents say that the artwork has a positive impact on society and addresses an issue while the other 4.5% disagreed (4.5% undecided). Unmistakably, Los Intocables ignited a fire among its audience, prompting social media platforms such as Facebook to ban it. This piece has been very controversial and too many people ignore matters such as this that are too sensitive.


Remaining Survey Results

As for others and for me, the discussion about the destruction of art was upsetting, stimulating, and ultimately beneficial. Does being offended by an artwork cause controversy? Absolutely. Art gives people relief from all of the violence that the community has experienced. Artwork allows us to think and see things from a different perspective. It turns heads and is powerful enough to elicit different responses. In spite of their content, there should be no boundaries or restrictions to art because art that is based on hate opens up meaningful conversations.

Many people found themselves in the middle of no man’s land, seeing both sides and searching for answers. Artists like to provoke their audiences, some more extremely than others. No matter what century or period, there are always artists that go against the normal artistic traditions of their time and artists that depict impermissible topics. Most of the time, these artworks have been banned, removed, or publicly rejected. However, these artworks have also impacted society and paved the way for freedom of speech, imagination, and motivates people to stand for a cause.

Take a look.

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