Remixed Masterpieces: When Artists Pay Homage to Other Artists


Visual culture compulsively self-regurgitates itself… In other words, everything is a remix. We’ve rounded up the most déjà vu-inspiring works from contemporary artists who have painted, sculpted and shot homages to their predecessors. From Banksy’s Warhol to Ron English’s double Magritte to something other than a shark pickled in formaldehyde in David Černý’s Damien Hirst redux, here are some adoring tributes, biting rebuttals and unsettling homages to art history’s greatest and most famous. Partially NSFW!

Chomp chomp, you’re dead! Rene Magritte’s 1964 self-portrait Le Fils De L’Homm (The Son of Man) is updated by contemporary/street artist Ron English in Stereo Magritte. English frequently tributes Picasso’s Guernica starring psychotic Mikey Mouses, psychedelic humanoid cows, satirically subverted Americana and his own kids. He has also re-staged Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper by painting the poster for Morgan Spurlock’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold and a tribute to Southpark.

It’s appropriate for Banksy — the world’s most hyped street artist — to tribute Andy Warhol — fame-monger extraordinaire — with this series of “mass produced” portraits of Kate Moss as Marilyn Monroe.

Photographer David La Chapelle posed Courtney Love into a Michelangelo Pietà motif as Madonna cradling Christ, or rather, a model doppelganger of her deceased husband Kurt Cobain. Syringe marks are the new crucifixion wounds! Tasteful, right?

Terry Richardson re-staged Annie Leibovitz’s seminal 1981 Rolling Stone cover of John Lennon nakedly crouching on Yoko Ono, starring their son Sean Lennon and his seductively clinging model girlfriend/band mate Kemp Muhl for Purple magazine in 2009.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 Pàter is an homage to Pablo Picasso’s 1971 Homme assis. It’s simultaneously cubist, neo-expressionist and rude in the pants!

What makes John Currin’s 2008 tribute After Courbet more explicit than Gustave Courbet’s sacrilegious 1866 painting L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World) is… the changing of pubic hairstyle trends?

French street artist Jean Spezial’s tributes the third panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s late fifteenth century triptych the Garden of Earthly Delights with a cartoonish take on hell. It’s kind of a masterpiece all on its own.

Czech contemporary artist and celebrated art prankster David Černý Shark-Saddam Body, seen here at the 2009 Prague Bienalle 9, is a derisive homage to celebrity taxidermist Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living better known around here as “Formaldehyde Shark,” featuring a very realistic Saddam Hussein. The Hussein-in-tank is a little tongue-in-cheek, morbidly uncouth and controversial enough to have been banned in Belgium, twice.

This is contemporary photographer Joel Peter Witkin’s gorgeous 1987 tribute to Pablo Picasso’s 1957 tribute to Diego Velazquez’s 1956 original Las Meninas. Tribute squared!

Since the most recent attack Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, the digital work Resurrection of Piss Christ appeared online. The intentionally derivative, deliberately anonymous tribute is available for high res download, ready to be freely distributed and receive all the abuses the internet can wield on it.

Angry with popular culture (namely, MTV) ripping of performance art without paying credit where credit’s due, performance art queen bee Marina Abramović staged Seven Easy Pieces at the Guggenheim Museum — seven meticulously authorized reenactments of seminal performances, including VALIE EXPORT’s 1968 Action Pants: Genital Panic, Joseph Beuys’s 1965 How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare and her own 1975 Lips of Thomas — to “set things right.” Rawr!!! Oh, and this was before Lady Gaga.

As part of the post-soviet Refusniks movement (a very Slavic version of the Arte Povera or “Poor Art”), contemporary artist Vladimir Anzelm delivered this rebuttal to Damien Hirst’s bombastically be-diamonded 2007 skull sculpture For the Love of God. Anzelm’s dropped his coal skull Migrant Workers of the Soul that very same year and, considering that Hirst’s sculpture was a clear rip-off of John LeKay’s 1993 crystal Spiritus Callidus #2, it’s better than the original.