Fair-minded people will have all sorts of different opinions about modern art. Some people will find deep, enriching meaning in a trip through an exhibition hall, and some people will inevitably find it a little too highfalutin for their tastes. But whether you're a devotee or not, it's important not to take yourself too seriously, right? After all, nothing's wrong with an innocent joke. Just ask visitors to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) on Monday ― they saw maybe the best modern art-related prank ever.
Here's the basic idea: a group of Bay Area teenagers were reportedly spending some time at the SFMOMA, which just recently celebrated the grand opening of a dramatic and eye-catching new expansion. And one of them ― 17-year-old TJ Khayatan, who told Buzzfeed's Javier Moreno about the virtuoso prank in an interview on Wednesday ― saw everyone gawking at seemingly mundane installations, and decided to try something out.
He put a pair of eyeglasses on the ground, close to the wall of the exhibit hall, giving the distinct-yet-understated impression that they could've been one of the many works of art on display. Then he waited to see how people reacted, and snapped a few photos. You can probably guess what happened.
The funny thing is, given the subjective nature of art appreciation and interpretation, the people who gathered around to snap photos of the cleverly-placed glasses weren't even necessarily wrong about what they were witnessing. Individuals are always going to have strongly independent, personal connections and reactions to works of art, and as such, the eye-of-the-beholder standard should carry a lot of weight here. Khayatan doesn't sound at all personally disdainful towards modern art, either ― here's what he told Moreno.
I can agree that modern art can be a joke sometimes, but art is a way to express our own creativity. Some may interpret it as a joke, some might find great spiritual meaning in it. At the end of the day, I see it as a pleasure for open-minded people and imaginative minds.
That said, the people snapping their own photos of the glasses clearly thought they were observing something carefully placed in a curated space for them to appreciate ― which was true, sort of, but strictly for the laughs, and not by the proprietors of the SFMOMA. Hats off to all involved on this one, and to the museum for clearly having such a good sense of humor about it.