Contemporary art has the power to change lives; to move people to tears; to make dads say, skeptically, “My 5-year-old kid could paint that.” Inspired by this multivalence, California teens TJ Khayatan and Kevin Nguyen (the guys are cousins, neighbors, and “sadly” friends) decided to create their own art installation during a recent trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: They put Kevin’s glasses on the floor of the museum and watched as people stopped and stared at their creation.
“We really did enjoy the art there, but we felt like anybody could make some of this ‘art’ we saw. We saw two bears on a blanket and we didn’t feel like it was modern art,” Kevin told me via group Twitter DM, the preferred method of communication for any good teen. “That piece kind of fell flat, so TJ and I thought, ‘What if we put down random things and how would people react?’”
They also tried the stunt with a few other objects, like a baseball cap, but that didn’t seem to attract the same attention. (One might argue that this is evidence that the glasses were, in fact, art.) “When we put the glasses down at the exhibit you and others saw, a lot people actually stopped and examined them. Heck, some people even took pictures,” Kevin told me. “Most of the people held their chin up with their hand as if they were quite impressed with the work of ‘art,’” TJ added.
As for ending their impromptu exhibition, TJ and Kevin said another museum patron got wise to their hijinks and was going to report them. The glasses quickly transformed from an exhibition piece to a useful tool: “They were my glasses, so obviously I need them to see,” Kevin observed. “It was a bit awkward since many groups of people were constantly approaching the glasses, so we had to find the perfect moment to retrieve them,” TJ said. “We waited a good five minutes for the group to clear up. After we picked them up, I saw a couple on the side laughing to each other when they saw us.”
“Many people are saying that we created our own art while trying to mock it, which is kind of ironic because we never really intended on it being ‘art,’” he added. “We did it for a good laugh and never thought documenting people’s reaction would get us 50,000 retweets.”
But as Degas said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others retweet.” Or something like that.