TJ Khayatan, a 17-year-old high school student from the Bay Area, might just be the art world’s latest Richard Prince—either a creative genius, or he’s found a way to scam people for the sake of art. Prince made headlines last year when he used other people’s Instagram selfies for an exhibition, selling them for prices as high as $100,000. For Khayatan, however, it was all just an accident.
While visiting the new SFMoma yesterday with some of his friends, the teenager became unimpressed with a few of the modern art pieces, particularly one he described as a “stuffed animal on a grey blanket.” That gave him an idea.
He placed his glasses in the corner of the room, walked away, and watched, in awe, as museum-goers crowded around to ponder the meaning of his work. He then posted photos to his Twitter, which went viral. What Khayatan intended to be a joke, turned him into an immediate Internet celebrity and his accidental art into another piece that begs the age-old question, “What exactly is art?”
LMAO WE PUT GLASSES ON THE FLOOR AT AN ART GALLERY AND… pic.twitter.com/7TYoHPtjP8
— teejay (@TJCruda) May 24, 2016
This is not a novel concept. Marcel Duchamp made art history and changed the definition of art itself when he debuted his seminal piece, “Fountain,” in 1917. A porcelain urinal, “Fountain” was part of Duchamp’s “Readymades” series, which included other everyday objects reimagined as art. His intention was to change the focus from physicality to intellectual interpretation, setting the stage for what we now consider the ethos of modern art.
Khayatan, however, doesn’t plan on being the next Duchamp or Richard Prince. He simply wanted to play a prank with his friends, and definitely didn’t expect his photos to become such a huge hit. Although he tried to recreate the effect with a baseball hat and a trash bin, neither had the same impact as his glasses.
In response to the reaction he’s received from Twitter critics, the teen told Buzzfeed, “I can agree that modern art can be a joke sometimes, but art is a way to express our own creativity.” He continued, “Some may interpret it as a joke, some might find great spiritual meaning in it. At the end of the day, I see it as a pleasure for open-minded people and imaginative minds.”