SALVADOR DALÍ’S LOBSTER TELEPHONE (1938)
The surrealist movement during the 1920s and 1930s gave birth to some rather bizarre pieces of art. Salvador Dalí had produced many unusual art pieces in his time but one of his more iconic creations was his lobster telephone.
The lobster telephone is a classic example of a ‘surrealist object’ – the Tate Modern defines a surrealist object as something that is “made from the conjunction of items not normally associated with each other, resulting in something both playful and menacing.”
In the case of the lobster telephone, Dalí believed that telephones were sinister messengers from the beyond, while the lobster was a sexual object. The lobster telephone allowed the user to call up their dream.
‘THE PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY OF DEATH IN THE MIND OF SOMEONE LIVING’ BY DAMIEN HIRST (1991)
Continuing on the subject of surrealist objects, Damien Hirst’s ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ was created by preserving a tiger shark in formaldehyde and displaying in a vitrine. The artist manipulated its form so as to give the illusion that the shark is relentlessly swimming through the open space of an art gallery. The gradual decay of the shark only enhanced the bizarreness of the piece and in 2006 the specimen was replaced due to the deterioration of the original.
The piece is a part of Hurst’s Natural History series in which he preserved and displayed a number of dead animals including a sheep and a cow.
Later in 2004, the 14-foot tiger shark installation sold for an estimated $8 million to American Billionaire Steven A Cohen, making him the second most expensive living artist after Jasper Johns.
TRACEY EMIN’S ‘MY BED’ (1998)
Like Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin was also a member of the Young British Artists (YBAs), a group of visual artists who would exhibit their work together in locations around London. YBAs first formed in 1988 where many of the first generation members graduated from the BA fine arts course in Goldsmiths.
‘My Bed’ was first created in 1998 and exhibited in the Tate Gallery in 1999 as one of the shortlisted works for the Turner Prize. The installation is literally Emin’s own unmade, unclean bed with objects and personal possessions such as used condoms, a pair of slippers, a full ashtray and empty vodka bottles scattered on and around the bed in a dishevelled state.
The installation gained much media attention but in the end it did not win the prize. Tracey Emin received a lot of backlash for her installation with many critics claiming that anyone could exhibit a bed, to which Emin retorted, “Well, they didn’t, did they? No one had ever done that before.”
In July 2014, ‘My Bed’ was sold at auction by Christie’s for £2,546,500.
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG’S ‘MONOGRAM’ (1955-59)
‘Monogram’ is regarded as Rauschenberg’s most famous piece of art. Raauschenberg had spotted a stuffed Angora goat in the window of a second-hand office-furniture store in New York and took it back to his studio where he began creating a ‘combine’ sculpture. Combines merged aspects of painting and sculpture to become an entirely new artistic category.
The title ‘Monogram’ is derived from the relationship of the goat and the tire that is inserted through the midsection of the specimen, which reminded the artist of the interweaving letters in a monogram.
‘FOUNTAIN’ BY MARCEL DUCHAMP (1917)
This bizarre piece of art has secured itself in the art hall of fame and is considered a landmark in 20th century art. Duchamp called the piece ‘readymades’ or ‘found art’ because he created art from an already existing object. In this case, the object was a porcelain urinal, which he titled ‘Fountain’ and signed his name as R.Mutt.
‘Fountain’ is a product of the ‘Dada’ art movement and was submitted for an exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, a society based in France that held annual exhibitions by avant-garde artists. The exhibitions were open to any artist and the exhibitions were without juries or prizes.
However, ‘Fountain’ had caused a stir among the society and, although the rules state that all works would be accepted, Duchamp’s urinal was never exhibited in the show area.
‘THE SILENT EVOLUTION’ BY JASON DE CAIRES TAYLOR (2011)
Situated in Cancun, Mexico, ‘The Silent Evolution’ is a part of the world’s largest underwater museum.
The underwater sculpture is composed of 400 individual statues cast from local people. The creation of the installation is twofold: it will attract snorkelers and divers and ease pressure on local natural reefs. Secondly, it will provide a basis for a coral ecosystem and attract a variety of aquatic specimens.
The initial sinking began in November 2009 with three sculptures being submerged: ‘La Jardinera de la Esperanza’ (The Gardener of Hope), ‘Hombre en llamas’ (Man on Fire) and ‘Coleccionista de Sueños’ (Dream Collector).
Check out this video of the bizarre underwater installation:
‘VANITAS: FLESH DRESS FOR AN ALBINO ANORECTIC’ BY JANA STERBAK (1987)
The ‘flesh dress’ is quite literally a dress made of meat. Canadian artist Jana Sterbak constructed the dress with slabs of raw flank steak, sewn together to form a sleeveless, mid-length dress. The dress is then displayed on a dummy.
‘Vanitas’ is very much a temporary piece of art and must be constructed with 50-60 pounds of fresh steak each time it is exhibited. As the exhibition goes on, the dress gradually turns beige and brown as it decays, changing shape and molding to the dummy’s hourglass shape. This bizarre piece of art is said to be a commentary on bodily vanity, reminding us that no matter how much time we spend on perfecting our bodies, we are little more than meat hanging from bones.
The dress caused a lot of controversy when it was first displayed in the National Gallery of Canada. Many were outraged that it could even be considered art, so much so that protestors mailed scraps of meat to the National Gallery.