6 Ways Artists Use SHOCK Value (With Examples)


Shock value is something that has always been used in art and will continue to be used as long as artists can elicit strong reactions by creating pieces that are unforgettable… to say the least.

Check out these 6 ways that artists use shock value in their art and examples of artists who use those forms of shock value in interesting, unique, and wildly cringe-worthy ways. Prepare yourself!


1. Sexuality and Nudity

Most people are surprisingly still quite shocked by the human body when it’s naked, even more so when those naked bits are being used to actually make art (do you think Fraser’s willy gets sore?!).


Artist Brent Ray Fraser Paints Princess Diana and The Queen With His Penis (video)

Swiss Performance Artist Miro Moiré Arrested for Nude Eiffel Tower Selfies

THE NAKED LIFE: Naked Milo Moiré Walks With a Naked Baby Through Exhibition, Becomes Art (video)


2. Violence

Using violence for shock value is nothing new (check out Ruben’s chilling The Massacre of the Innocents), but that doesn’t mean that it still can’t hold a heck of a wallop (check out the artist who nailed his scrotum to the pavement).


Artist nails his scrotum to the ground in Red Square

The Massacre of the Innocents by Rubens


3. Offend ‘Em

Amping up the shock value by being offensive offers a wide range of possibilities. Take something a group of people hold dear (e.g. a symbol of religion, politics, or identity) and do something to it that will piss ’em right off.


Piss Christ by Andres Serrano


4. Freak ‘Em Out

Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son may also include shocking violence, but it’s the horrifying and gory aspect of it that has always made me cringe and shudder at its shocking effect.


Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya


5. Gross ‘Em Out

You may not think it’s nasty (whatever it is that you might be doing), but it’s pretty perfect if your audience does.


Vaginal Knitting Artist Is Now Threading Your Hateful Comments in Period Blood


6. Make It Bigger and/or More Expensive

Damien Hirst is a master of shocking the public will the mere value of his creations. From dead sharks shipped across the world and stuck in a gallery to MASSIVE statues to the ultimate diamond-covered skull, you can’t help but be a little shocked at how much wealth is concentrated onto one piece of art.


For the Love of God by Damien Hirst