The Art World Redefined Through Contemporary Slang


A recent article in The Guardian brought attention to Urban Dictionary entries that redefine the giants of literature through contemporary slang. They range from the stupid (JK Rowling: being under the effects of cannabis (J) and ketamine (K)), to the sublime (Kerouac: to wander aimlessly for the giddy thrill). The New York Daily News cited the entries as being a “history of literature as seen by millions of 17-year-olds today,” but as The Guardian points out, some familiarity with the writer’s canon is required to make the quips successful — which means there has to be some literacy at play here.

We wanted to see if the same rules applied to the art world, so we clung to our brain cells (just in case) and went digging through Urban Dictionary’s website for slang versions of famous artists and related works. See what we found past the break, and let us know if you have your own redefinitions to contribute. (Diebenkorn, for instance, is just screaming for appropriation.)


“A typically negative term describing a person who appears attractive from one angle, such as the back or side, but from another angle they do not look how you expected them to look.”

“I thought that guy standing at the bar was really hot but when he turned around, he was a total Picasso.”


“A person who looks great from afar, but is a mess up close. Used in the movie Clueless with Alicia Silverstone.”

“Britney Spears is a monet … she looks great from afar, but up close she’s a mess!!!!”


“An extreme CREEPER! Beware!”

[We’d like to think this person was familiar with the work of Sophie Calle, but we’re guessing this was probably just a happy (very funny) accident.]


“Metaphor. To flip the script. You lead your listener to believe you’re speaking about one thing, but you are speaking of a completely different topic. You show them your left hand so they cannot view what your right hand is doing.”

“John Q enjoys dressing in the latest of designer fashion. He has diamond studded necklaces with matching bracelets and watches. He is seemingly the embodiment of “new money.” On the outside.

In reality, John Q is a backpacker. He enjoys romping about in sweatpants and a tanktop listening to early 90’s Hip Hop. De La Soul. Tribe Called Quest. Del The Funky Homosapien. Devin The Dude.

You warhol someone when they believe you are doing one thing; but you are doing the polar opposite.”


“A sell out. Somebody who compromises their integrity, morality and principles for money. It is commonly associated with attempts to increase mass appeal or acceptability to mainstream society … ”

“Dave: ‘Hey Kev, you still into Green Day?’

Kev: ‘Hell no Dave, after their American Idiot Album they’ve gone a bit Banksy.’

Dave: ‘True'”

Mona Lisa

“A girl that always has the same facial expressions, so that people can never tell what she is really thinking or feeling.”

“A: That chick seems pretty nice. I don’t understand her though. B: No, man, she’s a Mona Lisa, you’ll never understand her.”

Da Vinci

“The act of telling the truth through fiction.”

“Steven Colbert pulled a Da Vinci at the white house press dinner.”

Bob Ross

“Something that is made to look easy, but once attempted, is very difficult to do.”

I tried this new cake recipe I found online and it was a total Bob Ross. It looked easy to make, but from the pile of goop in my oven, it’s more complicated than I thought!


“An adjective to describe [the indescribable]. It usually means something extreme … Degas can be used to describe something metaphorical, abstract, or untouchable.”

“1. Look at the sky Helen, that degas twister just took out that house! 2. Jackie, that phone conversation was super degas, I could hear you yelling from all the way down the hall. 3. Abby’s man was so heartless that she had to pry his heart open with a degas knife.”


“An adjective used to describe something dead cool and classic. In fact if someone describes you as rembrandt, then you have made it in life.”

“She’s totally rembrandt right now.”