The Strangest Art Happenings in New York History [NSFW]

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New York has been the center of the art world since Paris stopped being the headquarters of cool in the early 1900s. With all this innovation comes a healthy (OK, sometimes not-so-healthy) dose of the weird — some good, some bad, and more than one involving sexual organs with their own creative juices. Only in New York would hundreds or thousands come out to witness such normal life events as making lunch or giving birth — in the name of art. Below, we round up ten of the strangest art happenings in the city’s (exceedingly strange) history.

Carolee Schneeman’s vagina holds the secrets of the universe. In East Hampton in 1975, the artist performed a piece called Interior Scroll, which started with Schneeman disrobing and doing art-school figure study poses on a table. Then the poetry reading began — Schneeman pulled a scroll from her vagina, unfurled it, and read feminist writings to the attending audience.

Japanese artist Shigeko Kubota also let her vag do the work at the Perpetual Fluxus Festival in 1965. Attaching a brush to the crotch of her panties, she squatted and scooted around a canvas on the floor, earning her (or her crotch) the title of “the female Jackson Pollack.”

The Guggenheim Museum was not just the venue for Matthew Barney’s epic 2003 Cremaster Cycle exhibition, but also a guest star in the piece. Encompassing film, sculptures, drawings, performance and photography, the exhibition fused The Rockettes and Vaseline, hardcore bands Agnostic Front and Murphy’s Law battling on stages made of salt, wandering gonads, amputee model Aimee Mullins, and a cameo by Richard Serra, partially shot within the museum itself — making visitors feel as if they were part of Barney’s wacky world.

In 2007, David Zwirner Gallery channeled Soho’s 303 Gallery by inviting Rirkrit Tiravanija to recreate an exhibition he did in 1992, in which he transformed 303 Gallery into a makeshift kitchen. For the duration of the show, in the lovely warmth of May, Zwirner’s space became the kitchen of 303 — and a free lunch for the Chelsea art world. Each day, anyone and everyone could come to the gallery and serve themselves Thai curry and steamed rice, have a seat, and chat with visitors and competitors in the art world.

Speaking of exciting lunches, in the 1960s and again last year, Fluxus artist Allison Knowles made performance art out of chopping vegetables. In a one-woman-show set to music, the artist sliced, diced, mixed, and tossed the city’s biggest salad, raking it up and serving it to the audience. Make a Salad may be performance art, but it can also serve up to 1,000 hungry viewers.

For two weeks in 1972, Vito Acconci laid below a ramp at Sonnabend Gallery and jerked off. Continuously. While uttering fantasies about the visitors walking above him. The artist put in eight full hours of long, hard work a day, coming up with plenty of very, very dirty talk along the way.

Rather than masturbating, Joseph Beuys spent eight hours a day living in Rene Block Gallery with a coyote for his piece, I Like America and America Likes Me. The 1974 performance, which involved hanging out with the coyote while wearing a giant felt blanket, lasted three days. The only thing Beuys experienced in New York was that coyote; he arrived from the airport (via veiled ambulance, no less) moments before the performance and returned to Germany as soon as it ended.

The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill popped up on Seventh Avenue South in 2008, chock full of adorable pets looking for a home. Only instead of hamsters or kittens, the shop carried animatronic fish sticks, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets all bobbing and cooing for unsuspecting tourists — who had no idea they were at a Banksy exhibition.

Lots of people have odd collections — from thimbles to commemorative plates — but Wolfgang Laib’s is up there with the weirdest. The artist collects pollen from the area surrounding his studio in southern Germany. Laib has been collecting the bright yellow stuff since the 1990s, and has created a gentle dusting that currently spans an 18- x 21-foot space in MoMA’s atrium, where it will stay until March 11, 2013.

Life imitates art imitates… life? That is pretty much the premise behind Marni Kotak’s The Birth of Baby X, a piece created when the artist she used all of her artistic energy to… give birth. Kotak turned Brooklyn’s Microscope Gallery into her birthing station, finally popping out a boy, who she named after a brand of tile cleaner.