The top 10 most controversial art pieces of all time

Art can be quite controversial at times. Throughout art history there have been numerous times when artists pushed the boundaries with their work and shocked the world. Below is a list of the 10 most controversial art pieces of all time.

The Last Judgment

Artist : Michelangelo

Time of making: 1536-1541

Michelangelo was one of the most known painters during the High Renaissance period. His painting, The Last Judgement, is located in Vatican City covering the whole altar of the Sistine Chapel. It depicts the Second Coming of Christ and the final judgement of humanity by God. What most people are not aware of is, that at the time of it’s creation all of the figures were completely nude. This resulted in a dispute between Michelangelo and the Catholic Church,which was outraged with the fact that Michelangelo depicted nude figures in a holy place. After his death, all the figures’ genitalia were painted over with draped fabrics.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

Artist: Picasso

Time of making: 1907

It’s no surprise that it was a Picasso’s painting among the ones that brought controversy to the world of art. Displayed in 1916,this large oil painting depicted five nude prostitutes and was thought to be too progressive, with many viewers calling it hideous. It is now located at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.


Artist: Picasso

Time of making: 1937

Another one of Pablo Picasso’s work, Guernica,-one of his most famous paintings-has been thought to be quite controversial. It depicts the massacre of the people of Guernica ,which happened in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. It’s an artistic outcry against fascism and remains until today a portrayal of every city ever bombed.It is now located in the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid.

Origin of the world

Artist: Gustave Courbet

Time of making: 1866

Courbet’s Origin of the world is a realistic,close-up depiction of a woman’s vagina,thighs and torso-so you can imagine how controversial it was for a 19th century painting. Nowadays,this revolutionary for it’s time piece of artwork,is located in the Orsay Museum in the city of Paris.

The Guitar Lesson

Artist: Balthus

Time of making: 1934

This painting is a disturbing depiction of pedophilia with the portrayal of an average student being grabbed by it’s hair and touched by her teacher. It’s as if the student is the guitar for the teacher to play-of course in a sexual way. Due to it’s controversity it has been passed between museums and collectors and hasn’t been on display since 1977.


Artist: Marcus Harvey

Time of making:1995

Marcus Harvey adapted a police mug shot of Myra Hindley, one of the Moors murderers onto a large scale canvas and displayed at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Due to the fact that she was among England’s most hated identities of mid 90’s, controversy -and success- followed.

The Holy Virgin Mary

Artist: Chris Ofili

Time of making: 1996

Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary depicts a black Virgin Mary, surrounded by female genitalia and buttocks taken from pornography magazines. The painter’s aim was to raise awareness about racial stereotypes and the fact that in Western art all biblical figures are white. In 1999, it was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in New York causing a big controversy. In fact, then mayor Rudolph Giuliani described the painting as sick and disgusting. As of October, 2019 it is displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Cut Piece

Artist: Yoko Ono

Time of making: 1964

Cut piece was not a painting, but an art performance. Yoko Ono invited each one of her audience to take a pair of scissors and cut a piece of her clothing while she sat there quiet.

Rhythm 0

Artist: Marina Abramovic

Time of making: 1974

Rhythm 0 was a six hour performance in which Abramovic provided her audience with 72 objects and called them to do whatever they desired. Among the objects were a feather, a rose, a chocolate cake,a piece of bread,honey but also scissors, a whip,and a gun loaded with one bullet. During the performance the audience became more and more violent,which resulted in Abramovic fearing for her life.

Piss Christ

Artist: Andres Serrano

Time of making: 1987

In 1987, Serrano put a small crucifix in a container of urine and created a print. Many people considered it a work of blasphemy,which resulted in him receiving a big amount of injunctions and death threats and the print destroyed by Christian protestors.