The Fine Line Between a Pile of Dirt and Art: Test Your Savvy


We’ve been running into the “is it art?” question a lot recently. Sure — it’s been lingering unanswered since Marcel Duchamp plunked a urinal down at the Armory Show, but people seem especially bewildered this month. They handwringing started at the beginning of March when Jeremy Deller opened It Is What It Is, a series of conversations about the Iraq war that looked very unlike, say, a Renoir. Fair enough. We weren’t sure if it was art either. Then Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes asked if the collection of historically important photography at MoMA, which includes pictures of Abu Ghraib and Vietnam, could possibly be considered art. We were equally conflicted. Even the New Yorker wanted to know if the BMW Art Cars were art. Who knows — art or not we wouldn’t kick one out of our garage (if we had a garage to begin with).

In the spirit of the times, we wanted to know how many people can discern a Polaroid of drunk kids at a party from one of Dash Snow and his friends that debuted at the Saatchi Gallery. So play along with us. After the jump, let us know if you can tell which of the following images are intended to be art and which aren’t.











1. No 2. Nope, it’s just a pile of dirt. 3. Yes, but we don’t know how much we buy Dash Snow’s whole gimmick. 4. No 5. Yes — it’s a Damien Hirst…duh. 6. No 7. Yes, a William Eggleston photo 8. No, it’s just a family from Patterson, NJ. 9. Yes — this is also a pile of dirt, but a Robert Smithson pile of dirt. 10. Yes — it’s Tokujin Yoshioka, and we’ll leave you with a statement on why…

“I have pondered on expressing the texture of material in nature through use of industrial products. This new product for Moroso might be a reminiscent of clouds in the sky and the flow of water that are breathed in one’s memories. I am fascinated by the elements of nature because they are not deliberated on purpose, but they have the beauty born of coincidence beyond human imagination.”