5 Works of Art That Completely Scandalized Your Grandparents


In the wake of #THICKE, we’re starting to feel like some “blurred lines” have been crossed, but let’s not forget all the times we’ve heard our grandparents say, “What will they do next?”

1. 'Fountain,' Marcel Duchamp

In 1917, Marcel Duchamp bought a porcelain urinal, turned it 90 degrees, signed it, and changed the course of modern art by submitting it to the Society of Independent Artists.  It served to offend the more serious artists of the time as well as the general grandparents who were able to see it. It was labeled indecent and “fishy,” no surprise following Duchamp’s "Nude Descending a Staircase," 1913.

2. 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,' Mark Twain

So maybe your grandparents weren’t around when the book was originally banned for vulgarities in 1885, but let’s not forget the dozens of other times that this work has surfaced in controversy as our times changed.  In 1955, Grandma sat my dad in front of the CBS televised version of Huckleberry Finn in which all mention of slavery was deleted and the character Jim was played by a white man. Today, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn continues to raise controversy. In the last two years, Alan Gribben has released a new, censored edition, replacing “n*gger”, which appears in the novel over 200 times, with “slave.”  

3. Jackson Pollock, 'Before Blue Poles'

Pollock’s abstract period (1912-1956) is now considered one of the most influential in modern art. When Life proposed the question of whether Pollock was the greatest living painter in the United States, many of your grandparents would have disagreed. Never displaying great ability to draw or paint, some attributed his techniques of pouring, dribbling, flinging, and pooling paint on the canvas to his alcoholism. Critic Bruno Alfreiri, expressed that the work was, “nothing but uncontrolled impulse.”

4. Elvis On Ed Sullivan

Ask your grandmother if she ever turned your mom’s high chair around when Elvis was on the tube. Her answer in the era of Robin Thicke may surprise you. Thank heavens, this pre-YouTube star didn’t have unedited versions available on the web. Instead, camera angles were directed above the waist for Elvis’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

5. Madonna's 'Sex'

Before the more serious An Intimate Biography, Madonna put out another kind of coffee-table material, the book Sex, released in companion with the album Erotica. Shot by Steven Meisel, Sex made a stir among Christian conservatives. Still, we have to wonder if someone’s grandparent is the person bidding $280 on Amazon for a copy today.