A Countdown of the Best Art Pranks of All Time

by Abi Crompton

Every now and then, us art-y folk tend to take things a little too seriously. In honour of April Fool’s Day, we’ve rounded up four times the art world got totally punk’d for a good giggle!

Stromberg Stickin’ It To MoMA

Described by the New York Times as a 'photographer, or a media manipulator, or a self-made chance factor, or a guerilla artist or a fraud. All of the above. None of the above', Harvey Stromberg was in a league of his own in the 1970s.

His most famous prank was his 'exhibition' at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) where he installed over 300 adhesive, life-sized photographs of utility objects such as light switches, bricks and keyholes. It took the museum two years to discover and remove the stickers, Stromberg even threw himself an opening party to celebrate the 'longest-running one-man photo exhibit'.

The Late, Great Nat Tate

Launched on the eve of April Fool’s Day in 1998 at Jeff Koons’ studio, William Boyd and David Bowie created a fake biography for made-up artist, Nat Tate.

Released by David Bowie’s publishing group, Nat Tate: an American Artist 1928-1960 fooled a good majority of New York’s art and literature scene - even with that (very obvi) name combination of ‘National Gallery’ and ‘Tate’. With references of fake galleries and false artworks, it still took one week for people to figure out the hoax.

Banksy’s Shred Of Dignity

Banky’s most recent stunt at a Sotheby’s auction saw his Balloon Girl shred after being sold for $1.4 million USD.

According to Sotheby’s website: 'In a moment that caught the art world by surprise, Banksy’s Girl with Balloon self-destructed just as the final hammer signaled the end of an evening of auctions in London'. The Washington Post dubbed it: 'one of the most memorable art prank(s) in years', and the shredding actually increased the painting’s worth by twenty percent. A metaphor? Maybe. Freakin’ funny? Abso-freakin'-lutely.

Art Thou Vandelay?

Our personal favourite is the Art Vandelay saga from Keeping Up With The Kardashians - a riff on George Costanza's alter ego. When Kris Jenner art-shamed Khloe Kardhashian after she didn’t recognise the Jeff Koons' balloon sculpture in her office, we were graced with one of the best art pranks in TV.

With the help of Scott Disick, Khloe pranks art snob Kris by hiring an actor to play renowned (imaginary) artist 'Art Vandelay'. They introduce her to 'the next big thing' and before we know it, she hangs up one of his pieces in her house - which is actually a painting by Khloe. To quote Kris: 'You’re an artist and your name is "art"? This is amazing!'

Moral of the story: art shaming is not cool y'all.