7 Most Disappointing Art Exhibits in the World

Are you an art lover? Disappointed by hyped up exhibits on your travels? Check out this list of dismally disappointing art and save your time and money!

1) Any exhibit, Anywhere, by Damien Hirst

Ask anyone to name some of the most famous conceptual artists working today, and most will mention British artist Damien Hirst. Internationally renowned, he shows regularly at major museums and his work sells for shocking prices at auctions.

Hirst gained fame by showing a series of dead (and sometimes dissected) animals preserved in formaldehyde— his 14-foot preserved tiger shark became an icon of British art worldwide in the 90’s. Since then he’s sold a platinum skull covered in diamonds for $100 million and an 18-karat gold calf submerged in—you got it—formaldehyde.

Far from genius or even thought-provoking,  Hirst’s work is proof of an art world obsessed with hype, fame and money—when you see his name on a marquee feel free to keep on walking.

Jim Linwood

2) The Sistine Chapel, Rome

Don’t get me wrong, the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo in the Renaissance is amazing…in pictures. Much like the famed (and also disappointing) Mona Lisa, the problem is when you get there, you can’t see much.

On a typical summer’s day, the line to visit the chapel can stretch as long as 3km. The building itself is quite small, which means when you get there you’ll be squeezed in with plenty of sweaty tourists all craning to get a look. Save yourself the trouble by getting a good picture book and exploring the rest of fascinating Vatican City.


3) Egyptian Antiquities Museum, Cairo

Cairo is home to one of the oldest civilizations and the rise and fall of one of the world’s most powerful empires. The Antiquities Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Egyptian artifacts—it ought to be mind-blowing right? Wrong.

This museum, like the city it resides in, is a loud, chaotic jumble. Hardly anything is labeled and priceless artifacts are displayed in careless ways that make most museum professionals shudder. If you can get past the poor lighting and lack of air-conditioning, there are true treasures here. But these gems deserve a better home.


4) The New Leipzig School, Leipzig, Germany

Ever since the discovery of this art school in 2003 in what used to be East Germany, it’s been hyped (in the words of the Washington Post) as “the biggest thing in art since oil paint began to come in tubes.” Paintings from the school now exhibit around the world and command million dollar prices. But the paintings themselves? Pure student work.

Almost all the Leipziggers are male who paint surprisingly conventional themes, like female nudes and outdated laments about the failed experiment of an East German utopia.  In the anxious quest to prove that painting isn’t dead, the art world may have gotten way ahead of themselves: many art experts are now cautioning that the Leipzig fad is passing quickly.

Mark Barry (painting by Matthias Weischer)

5) The Museum of Bad Art, Boston

If you’re disappointed with the quality of the art in this museum, well, it’s sort of your fault. You see, the Museum of Bad Art is purposefully “dedicated to the collection, preservation, and exhibition of really awful artwork.”

The museum was established in 1994 when an antique dealer hauled “Lucy in the Field with Flowers” out of a dumpster to salvage the frame. His friend started showing the painting in his basement and it quickly became popular.

The museum now has 500 pieces of art pieces gone wrong and a rigorous judging system to decide which ones are just bad, and which are spectacularly bad enough to enter the collection.  So if you leave thinking, “what a waste of time, those paintings were awful,” you may have missed the point.


6) The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland

Despite being housed in a handsome historic building, modern art-loving travelers rate the IMMA one of the worst places to view it. A massive space, IMMA has very few objects on display, and most are sculptures from a small pool of artists.  In fact, there are very few works by Irish artists—curious for a place that calls itself an Irish Museum!

Ireland has a rich artistic history that’s not done justice, and adding insult to injury the museum is located in the difficult-to-access countryside. The bell located in the basement dates from the time when the building was a soldier’s outpost, and is the most interesting thing here.


7) International Friendship Exhibition, North P’yŏngan Province, North Korea

Unless you’re a fan of evil dictators, you probably won’t be enamored by the oddities housed in this tribute museum to former leader Kim Il-Sung and current leader Kim Jong-il. Composed entirely of gifts given to the eccentric leaders by foreign dignitaries, visitors to the museum are told that the thousands of gifts are proof of the world’s love and respect for their leaders.

Creepy highlights include a railway carriage sent by Stalin, a crocodile briefcase from Castro and a bear’s head from the executed Romanian ruler Ceausescu. Upon entering, visitors are required to bow down to cheesy portraits of Kim-Il Sung and Kim Jong-il, so if you have a problem with kneeling for two of the world’s most ruthless dictators you may want to give this shrine a pass.


Which art exhibits have left you feeling flat? Post up your comments below and let us know!

If you liked this, you might also like: You Don’t Have to be a Museum Bore to be an Art Fiend: Amazing New York Street Art

Main image credit: Mona Lisa by cultr.sun

7 thoughts on “7 Most Disappointing Art Exhibits in the World”

  1. Although Rome is a mess, if you go off season, the sistine chapel is still a sight to see. Go early before all of the tourist groups show up.

  2. I agree that the Cairo museum is a mess, but I was not disappointed. I just took it as part of the experience. When the new museum opens out at Giza I think a lot of the museum’s character will be lost.

    I was in the Sistine Chapel just after it was restored in 1995. I was not disappointed. However, time has a way of changing things :)

  3. The only thing bad about the Sistine Chapel is the crowds. Go early and out of season and it is one of the most extraordinary pieces of art anywhere in the world. I agree that it is sad that a great curator cannot get hold of the collection at the Egyptian Museum and make it a worldclass experience. The items are stunning – the display and organisation shameful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *