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April Fool's Day: Art History's Notorious Pranksters

  The Fountain  by Marcel Duchamp, 1917

The Fountain by Marcel Duchamp, 1917

In the spirit of April Fool's day, we decided to share a few highlights from art's rich history of tomfoolery. Though art is often regarded as a serious matter, these playful pranksters flout those preconceptions. From Duchamp's iconic urinal to Hugo Ball's temple-scratching cabarets, here is a look at a few of art history's most notorious pranksters:

MARCEL DUCHAMP

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Most Infamous Pranks:

  • Declaring a urinal art in The Fountain

  • Drawing the a beard and mustache on a postcard of the Mona Lisa and implying a certain level of promiscuity in L.H.O.O.Q.

  • Mounting a bicycle wheel onto a stool in Bicycle Wheel.

PIERO MANZONI

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Most Infamous Pranks:

  • Collecting stool samples in 90 custom-labeled tin cans and treating them as art in Artist's Shit. 

  • Exhibiting his breath in balloons.

  • Exhibiting his fingerprint in ink on a hard-boiled egg.

HUGO BALL

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Most Infamous Pranks:

  • Founding an artist-focused night club The Cabaret Voltaire, where he would put on dada performances including "Sound Poems" consisting of nonsensical words.

  • Wearing lobster claws and a cylindrical hat.    

MAURIZIO CATTELAN

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Most Infamous Pranks:

  • During his first solo show, taping a note on the door saying "I'll be right back," never coming back. 

  • Duct taping a Milanese gallerist to the wall of his gallery for one day. 

  • Erecting a 36-foot tall white marble sculpture of a raised middle finger. Titling it L.O.V.E.

TOM FRIEDMAN

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Most Infamous Pranks:

  • Placing a fake, though highly-realistic, fly on a minimalist sculpture.