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Getty Museum Asks Public to Recreate Works of Art


"Laughing Fool" painting attributed to Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen. Image: Davis Museum at Wellesley College. Recreation by Tiffanie Pierini Ho via Facebook.
Getty Museum Asks Public to Recreate Works of Art
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For years, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles has been famous for its large collection of European paintings, sculptures and other works of art. Recently, it has become popular for something else: an art challenge on social media.

Last week, the Getty asked its followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to remake famous pieces from its collection. “We challenge you to recreate a work of art with objects (and people) in your home,” the museum wrote.

The rules were simple: Choose your favorite work of art. Use three things from your house to recreate it. Then, take a picture and share it on social media.

The public’s response came in the hundreds, then the thousands, of creative and funny remakes. And, it has not stopped yet.

When a coworker challenged Amy Retartha to do the art challenge, she knew exactly which painting she would use: Pablo Picasso’s “Old Guitarist.” Retartha, who lives in South Bend, Indiana, says she has always loved that painting, especially because of its history.

“There’s a story behind that piece because, at the time Picasso painted it, he was a poor artist and he had painted over a painting he didn’t like to reuse the canvas.”

If you look closely at the painting in person, you can see evidence of another person’s face behind the guitarist, she says.

Retartha, who has been making art since she was a child, says it took only 20 minutes to do the piece. She used blue and white bedding, a white mask, and one of her husband’s guitars. The local library where she works put the picture on its Instagram page.

Other people did the Getty challenge with something else they had at home: their children.

CGathier on Twitter remade the famous oil painting “Self-Portrait with Pipe” by Vincent Van Gogh with her son as Van Gogh. In her creation, her son is wearing a gray hat and has white material around his head and a pipe in his mouth.

With many parents now homeschooling their children, the Getty challenge came at a perfect time. One woman on Twitter used the challenge as an art lesson for her son. With a toy monkey, a cat and other objects, the boy recreated “Self-Portrait with Thorns and Hummingbird” – a painting by celebrated Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Twitter user Nina Peacock gave her son the home school art assignment of recreating a painting by Frida Kahlo.
Twitter user Nina Peacock gave her son the home school art assignment of recreating a painting by Frida Kahlo.

Other people included real animals in the challenge.

A picture that is appearing all over social media is of a woman who remade a 13th century Italian piece with just two objects: a scarf and her dog. It comes from a painting called “Madonna and Child,” whose painter remains a mystery to this day.

Annelisa Stephan is assistant director for digital content at the Getty Museum. She has seen people use their dogs, cats, rabbits and even ferrets. As the challenge becomes more popular, one animal she would love to see people use is a snake -- a common symbol in Roman art.

Stephan says the challenge was born when the Getty recently asked its followers on social media what they wanted to do from home and got hundreds of replies.

“People really showed that they really wanted to look at art and engage with it and they were also eager to have fun.”

So, the Getty staff began looking online for fun ideas and were moved by the art challenges of the Rijskmuseum in Amsterdam and an Instagram page called Between Art and Quarantine. Similarly, those challenges asked people to use home objects to remake art.

Stephan notes the Getty challenge has grown so much that people in the United Kingdom, Portugal and other European countries are doing it. She has even seen challengers from Australia.

But is there something no one has done yet that she would enjoy seeing? She would love to see people do recreations of the Roman sculptures. Stephan suggests people look at the portrait heads and see if any “look like them or has an expression that might speak to them.”

I’m Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Have you tried the art challenge yet? If so, send us your art creation at learningenglish@voanews.com.

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Words in This Story

sculpture – n. a piece of art that is made by carving or molding clay, stone, metal or something else

challenge – n. an invitation to participate in a competition

response – n. something that is done as a reaction to something else

canvas – n. a specially prepared piece of cloth on which a picture can be painted by an artist

pipe – n. a tube with a small bowl at one end that is used for smoking tobacco

toy – adj. of a kind that is meant for a child to play with

scarf – n. a long piece of cloth that is worn on your shoulders, around your neck or over your head

content – n. the ideas, facts, or images that are in a website or in a book, speech, movie or something else

engage – v. to become involved with

eager – adj. very excited and interested

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