20 Classic Works of Art Modernized by Clever Contemporary Artists

The tell-tale sign of a great work of art is timelessness. That’s why it’s no surprise that many artists today often look to art history’s many masterworks for inspiration. While some contemporary creatives’ nods to the past are understated—perhaps an appropriated color palette or the adoption of a subtly similar style—others pay particularly straightforward homages to the past by putting a present-day spin on age-old masterpieces.

From digitally manipulated photographs and hypnotic animations to sculptural reinterpretations and old-meets-new street art, this curated collection of classic works of art modernized proves that, like fine art, a little creativity never gets old.

Classical Couture


In Paint Me Over, photographer Marina Danilova captures a series of gorgeous gowns adorned with art inspired by age-old oil paintings. Designed by Svetlana Lyalina, each couture dress juxtaposes traditional textile patterns and detailing with figurative scenes worthy of a wall in a museum.

All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go


Street Stone, a silly series by photographer Lo Caillard digitally dresses classical sculptures in modern ensembles. Caillard states that the purpose of the project is “to catch the eye of the beholder by the marriage of two worlds so different.”

A Museum-Worthy Tattoo


Using skin as his canvas, Korean tattoo artist OOZY creates eye-catching, meticulously detailed body art. While his inked  portfolio portrays an eclectic array of subject matter, he is often commissioned to create reproductions of the classics, with The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai remaining a popular request among his clients.

Frida’s Mermaid Makeover


In his Logo + Art series, pop artist Eisen Bernardo overlays famous works of art with stencil-like reproductions of contemporary and commercial symbols. Intended as “an examination of art and consumerism; of expression and function; of personal and corporate,” the digital project cleverly comments on the relationship between iconic iconography of the past and present. In this piece, Bernardo creatively combines Frida Kahlo’s Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird with Starbucks’s famed two-tailed siren.

A Singer-Sargent Striking a Pose


Eisen Bernardo‘s Mag + Art series playfully places modern magazine covers on top of well-known works of art. Here, covergirl Natalie Portman morphs into Jean Singer-Sargent’s Portrait of Frances Sherborne Ridley Watts as she poses for an  issue of W Magazine.

From Metropolis to Museum


In an effort to brighten up Paris’ billboard-laden metro stations and streets, tongue-in-cheek artist Etienne Lavie replaced the metropolis’ publicly-placed advertisements with site-specific reproductions of classical art. Humorously titled OMG Who Stole My Ads? the series emphasized Paris’ cultural roots with French paintings like Delacroix’s La Liberté guidant le peuple, Renoir’s La lecture, and, as seen above, Fragonard’s Renaud dans les jardins d’Armide. 

Plastic Post-Impressionism


In Running the Numbers II: Portraits of Global Mass Culture, artist Chris Jordan recreates beloved masterworks with unconventional materials. Each unique, upcycled creation comments on the excessive pollution and waste produced across the globe today. For his spot-on reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Jordan used 50,000 brightly colored lighters as an inventive alternative to the artist’s signature brushstrokes.

Rococo Deconstructed


Inspired by the work of French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonardartist Yinka Shonibare has inventively recreated his most famous piece, The SwingThe Swing (After Fragonard)  Rococo painting, reimagining it as a minimalist and deconstructed installation.

Madonna and Child on the Metro


Ukrainian artist and art director Alexey Kondakov seamlessly superimposes figures from iconic paintings, like Bouguereau’s Song of the Angels, into mundane scenes of daily life, turning contemporary Kiev into a real-life classical canvas.

Categories: All Topics, Art

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