Who Turned Mona into a Meme?

Where did it all begin, this Mona-centered universe of ours? Many blame, or praise, Marcel Duchamp, whose famous mustachification is shown below on the right.

Images: Public Domain

Images: Public Domain.

In 1919, Duchamp notoriously altered an existing Mona Lisa postcard, adding a mustache, goatee and a punny caption. Taking a “high art” art object, but in lowly post card form (a readymade like the urinal and bicycle wheel), he both demoted her and promoted her, setting the stage for almost a century of Mona manipulations.

But Ducham was NOT the first Mona meme-fier. In 1887, Eugene Bataille, also known as “proto-performance artist Sapeck” gave Mona a pipe (image on left).

To Every Purpose, There’s a Mona

The variations continue: playful, political and commercial.

Image: by Marco Pece, www.udronotto.it
Image: by Marco Pece, www.udronotto.it.

Italian artist Marco Pece recreates great paintings in Lego form quite charmingly.

There’s the Beyonce Mona… part of the Carter Family Portraits which re-imagine classic paintings with Beyonce and Jay-Z.

There have been Mona Lisas re-created in coffee cups (see video below), paint by number sets, burned toast, and lawn grass to name but a few instances of appropriation in art. Heck, even my mother tried her hand at Mona, winning a blue ribbon at a small town art fair. And the Mona beat goes on.