Two California teenagers who recently visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art were less than impressed by some of the exhibits and wondered if they could do better.
And thus a scheme was hatched: They placed a pair of eyeglasses on the floor, stood back and watched as, within minutes, visitors regarded their prank as a work of art, with some even taking photos of the fake installation.
The teenagers, Kevin Nguyen, 16, and TJ Khayatan, 17, both of San Jose, had been left scratching their heads at the simplicity of some of the museum’s exhibits, including two stuffed animals on a blanket.
“Is this really what you call art?” Kevin said in an interview over the weekend.
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TJ added, “We looked at it and we were like, ‘This is pretty easy. We could make this ourselves.’ ”
Inspired during their visit on May 21, they experimented with putting a jacket on the floor and then a baseball cap, but neither drew attention.
Kevin then placed his Burberry glasses on the floor beneath a placard describing the theme of the gallery. He said neither he nor TJ did anything to influence museum visitors, such as standing around and looking at the glasses.
Within about three minutes, people appeared to be viewing their handiwork as bona fide art, though Kevin said that without his glasses, he could not see what was happening too well.
News sites like The Huffington Post and NBC Bay Area reported on the episode after TJ posted photos on Twitter, helping to propel a lively debate about what counts as art. An SFMoMA representative was unavailable for comment, but the museum offered a response last week.
The museum was referring to Duchamp’s “Fountain,” a urinal that the artist turned on its side and put on a pedestal. It was among the works he used to challenge traditional notions of making and exhibiting art, the museum said on its website.
Kevin, who will be a junior in high school in the fall, said that when art is more abstract, it is more difficult to interpret and he loses interest.
TJ, who plans to attend community college in the fall, said the two did not get to see all of the museum’s exhibits and would probably visit again.
And if they do return, will they pull another prank?
”Given the attention it got, it might be a good idea,” he said. “We had a good laugh about it.”