By nature, artists love controversy. Controversial artworks create a sense of notoriety that can see their works fetch higher prices at auctions and catapult their careers to new heights.

There are several works of art in modern day that have largely been aimed at political, anti- establishments or religious rhetoric.

In the public’s eye, this combination of art and morality bring a newfound level of enthusiasm and interest in discussion. Pundits may look away in dismay, having us question if controversy in the art world is really all bad?

Let us take a closer look at reviewing the following pieces.

Banksy, Love is in the Bin – previously known as Girl with the Balloon

This piece of work is heavily and repeatedly mentioned in articles and news as a classic example of controversial art. It went under the hammer at Sotheby’s Auction House in London, selling for £1.04 million back in 2018. As soon as the gavel landed, the painting shredded itself with a device the artist had secretly built into the frame!

Causing a massive stir at the time, in February 2019 the painting went on display in the Frieder Burda Museum in Baden-Baden, a town in southwestern Germany.

The museums director, Henning Schaper said, “We are expecting great interest from the public, especially young people and Banksy fans…we are trying to adhere to (Banksy’s) approach of consistently democratizing art and we are currently discussing how to make the picture accessible to as many people as possible.”

Banksy challenged the idea of art auctions and its exclusive nature. He effectively brought attention to the art ecosystem and disrupted how art is valued in a shocking instant.

Michelangelo, “The Last Judgement,”

One of the most famous artists of all time was met with outrage from the Catholic Church in his depiction of the Second Coming of Christ in “The Last Judgement”.

With Jesus pictured beardless and in the classic style of pagan mythology and over 300 figures, mostly male and mostly nude, it challenged the very anti-progressive fabric of the church and society as a whole at the time.

“Myra,” by Marcus Harvey 

A work depicting the mug shot of Myra Hindley onto a large-scale canvas caused one of the greatest art controversies of the 1990’s.

Part responsible for the sadistic Moors Murders of five children in the 1960’s, Myra Hindley fast became one of the most hated identities of the mid ’90s. 

Inevitably, it was a controversial work of art in the modern time. The piece was displayed at the Sensation exhibition of Young British Artists at the Royal Academy of Art in London and required security guards to watch over the painting as other artists threw ink and eggs onto it.

However, the exhibition was a resounding success as over 300,000 people went to see the canvas, again resulting in intrigue and a resounding success for the museum, the artist and art as an expressive medium – through the creation of contentious pieces.

Love it or hate it, contentious works of art often are the core objectives of artists, and great ones at that.

From the three mentioned above, through to Picasso, Thomas Eakin, Andres Serrano and others, controversial works sell art, just as controversial stories sell newspapers or advertising space online. Although the works may not fall under your personal taste or preference, its profound impact in making a statement cannot be denied.

The team at Art Works advise investors and art lovers on understanding works of discussion and their values in the market. Contact the team today at to find out more.