51 disappointing photos that show what famous art is really like

Phil Roeder/Flickr/Attribution LicenceModern museum visitors often spend the majority of their time photographing art.
  • From iconic paintings in the Louvre to fan-favourite sculptures in New York City, notable artwork can be found all across the globe.
  • But while famous art often looks stunning in photographs, it doesn’t always look the same in real life.
  • We’ve rounded up 51 disappointing photos that show what famous artwork actually looks like.
  • The photos reveal everything from large museum crowds to smaller-than-expected paintings and weather-affected art.

Over the years, paintings such as “Mona Lisa” and “The Scream” have become iconic pieces of history. Similarly, artistic landmarks like Chicago’s Cloud Gate – better known as the Bean – have become pop-culture staples. But the images we constantly see of these famous artworks don’t always represent reality.

Photos of famous paintings rarely show the massive crowds that line up to see them. And photographs of outdoor sculptures don’t often show what it’s like to visit in poor weather conditions.

Below, we’ve rounded up 51 photos that show the disappointing reality of what famous art really looks like.


The Little Mermaid is a staple landmark in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Jeremy A.A. Knight/Flickr/Attribution LicenceMany artists have taken inspiration from The Little Mermaid.

The bronze statue was created by Edvard Eriksen and has been a favourite attraction among tourists since it was first displayed in 1913.


But up close, the statue doesn’t look as picturesque.

Jorge Franganillo/Flickr/Attribution LicenceThe Little Mermaid is covered in teal streaks from top to bottom.

The statue, which was once completely bronze, is now discolored from years of weather and vandalism.


It can also be pretty difficult to get close to the art.

John Robinson/Flickr/Attribution LicenceVisitors usually stand right next to the statue to take photos with it.

Considering that The Little Mermaid is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Copenhagen, Denmark, it’s almost always blocked by large crowds.


Manneken Pis is a humorous landmark found in Brussels.

Jose Antonio Navas/Flickr/Attribution LicenceThe statue, which is a copy of the original art, spouts water.

The bronze sculpture, which was made by Jerôme Duquesnoy and installed in 1619, is meant to look like a urinating child.

The original statue is currently stored in the Museum of the City of Brussels, but tourists can still visit a copy of the landmark, which has been around since 1965.


But if you’re hoping to get a close-up selfie with the figure, you might have to rethink your photo.

Mike Kemp/Getty ImagesThe fence is likely in place to protect the statue from vandalism.

There’s a gate separating travellers from Manneken Pis.


That’s not to mention that the statue is always surrounded by people taking selfies.

NurPhoto/Getty ImagesYou’ll have to wait for others to take their photos before you can get one.

Even then, Mannekin Pis’ background isn’t always picture perfect. When construction is taking place, large sheets are used to cover the majority of its surrounding stone walls.


And you never know what the statue will look like when you arrive.

Michael Costa/Flickr/Attribution LicenceThe statue wears the uniform of a local sports team.

Several times each week, the statue is dressed in fan-designed outfits by members of the nonprofit group The Friends of Manneken-Pis.


“Mona Lisa” is one of the most famous pieces of art in the world.

The painting, which Leonardo da Vinci began in about 1503,has survived multiple vandalism attempts. It’s now highly protected with a bulletproof glass frame.


But photos of the portrait can be pretty misleading, so you might be surprised by its actual size.

Chris Waits/Flickr/Attribution Licence‘Mona Lisa’ is the single painting hanging on the far wall.

Measuring 30 inches tall and 21 inches wide, “Mona Lisa” is surprisingly small compared to other paintings, especially those that are hung in the same room at the Louvre.


And there are always tons of people crowded around the portrait.

Jose Luis Hidalgo R./Flickr/Attribution LicenceMost people who visit the Louvre are eager to get a glimpse of the painting.

Not only will you have to battle a crowd of eager museumgoers to see the “Mona Lisa,” but you’ll also have to view the roped-off portrait from far away.


Vincent van Gogh created the whimsical “Starry Night” in 1889.

Victor Fraile Rodriguez/Getty ImagesA couple hugged as they view the romantic painting.

The painting has been kept in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941.


In reality, the room that houses “The Starry Night” is always extremely crowded.

Phil Roeder/Flickr/Attribution LicenceIt can be difficult to see the painting when so many phones are blocking the view.

The painting has become a popular Instagram photo op, so you’ll often find tons of people crowding it.


People flock to Salvation Mountain in California to see its bright colours and inspiring messages.

Brian/Flickr/Attribution LicenceBible verses and Christian sayings cover the mountain.

Leonard Knight created the environment from straw and lead-free paint.


So you might be surprised to learn that the mountain is actually just a small, spray-painted hill in the desert.

Chris M. Morris/Flickr/Attribution LicenceTo keep up with the harsh desert environment, the mountain is constantly refurbished.

The artwork measures just 150 feet wide and 50 feet tall.


Venus de Milo is one of the most famous sculptures to emerge from ancient Greece.

Jastrow/Wikimedia Commons/Public DomainNotably, the arms of the Venus de Milo sculpture were lost shortly after discovery.

The sculpture is actually called Aphrodite of Milos and is on permanent display at the Louvre.


As with most famous art, Aphrodite of Milos constantly draws a crowd.

NurPhoto/Getty ImagesA group admiring the Aphrodite of Milos statue at the Louvre.

The marble statue has less security than other famous pieces, so you can get pretty close to it.


The Great Sphinx of Giza is a favourite destination among travellers.

In the evening, the monumental sculpture is illuminated by the sunset, making for a stunning view.


But in the daytime, the monument blends in with the vast surrounding desert.

Lyn Gateley/Flickr/Attribution LicenceKhafre’s pyramid sits behind the Sphinx.

From up close, the Great Sphinx of Giza looks massive. But when viewed next to large pyramids in the middle of a barren desert, the monument appears to be much smaller.


Regardless, thousands of people flock to the monument every day.

Lyn Gateley/Flickr/Attribution LicenceOne ticket allows you to see the Great Sphinx of Giza and Khafre’s pyramid.

If you’re not a fan of crowds, you might want to rethink a trip to the landmark.


Candy Chang’s interactive art exhibit “Before I Die” took on a life of its own after its initial installation.

Kevan/Flickr/Attribution LicenceIt only took one day for locals to start writing on the wall.

Candy Chang created “Before I Die” after a loved one died. She covered an outside wall of an abandoned house in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and used a stencil to make spaces for passerby to write their goals.


The original wall was eventually taken down, but replicas began popping up in other cities.

Tony Webster/Flickr/Attribution LicenceHeartwarming messages cover ‘Before I Die’ walls in tons of cities.

The art installation is now global, with walls all over the world meant to inspire others to “contemplate mortality and share their personal aspirations in public,” according to the “Before I Die” website.


But depending on when you visit your local wall, there might not be much space left to write.

Roman Boed/Flickr/Attribution LicenceHowever, the art is meant to be temporary, so you’re allowed to erase.

Some people choose to write over existing goals, while others choose to doodle and cover the wall in graffiti.


The Cloud Gate sculpture, which was inspired by liquid mercury, sits in the middle of Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Lara Farhadi/Flickr/Attribution LicenceCloud Gate was constructed between 2003 and 2004.

The art piece was designed by Anish Kapoor and is often referred to as the Bean.


But the site is always surrounded by tourists.

Kenneth Lu/Getty ImagesSome people take photos in front of the art, while others take photos of their reflections.

If you take a photo of yourself in front of the Bean, you can expect to see tons of other vacationers in the reflection of its shiny surface.


And if you visit Cloud Gate in the winter, you might not be able to see your reflection at all.

Francisco Antunes/Getty ImagesSome tourists didn’t seem to mind the snow.

Chicago is known to experience harsh weather in its winter months, and the Bean often gets covered in snow.


Artist Sandro Botticelli created “The Birth of Venus” in the mid-1480s.

Andrés Gómez García/Flickr/Attribution LicenceVisitors flock to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, every year to view the painting.

The image was inspired by the goddess Venus, who is depicted emerging from the sea upon her birth.


In person, the painting is usually surrounded by large crowds.

picture alliance/Getty ImagesIf you’re not a fan of crowds, you might want to avoid this gallery.

But because the painting is pretty large, you should be able to see at least some of it from a distance.


Many people dream of visiting South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore.

J. Pat Hodges/ShutterstockSculptor Gutzon Borglum created the monument with the help of his son, Lincoln Borglum.

The memorial, which depicts former Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, was carved into the granite face of the mountain.


But the sculpture is much smaller than you’d probably expect.

Madeleine Deaton/Flickr/Attribution LicenceThe lighter colour of the sculpture is what makes Mount Rushmore really stand out.

Especially from far away, it becomes clear that the four presidential faces are a minor aspect of a much larger mountain range.

Read more: Disappointing photos show what 21 famous US attractions look like in real life


“Season’s Greetings,” a mural painted by Banksy, depicts a young boy seemingly playing in falling snow. The other side of the wall reveals that he’s actually breathing in ashes from a dumpster fire.

Matt Cardy/Stringer/Getty ImagesThe art looks completely different depending on the angle from which you look at it.

The mural appeared unexpectedly on a garage wall in Port Talbot, Wales, and Banksy confirmed it was his work on December 19, 2018.


Visitors have to take photos of the mural through a wire fence.

Matt Cardy/Getty ImagesMost visitors don’t seem to mind the fencing.

Ian Lewis, the owner of the garage where the mural was painted, wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of art lovers who have since visited his property. He also wasn’t prepared for the vandalism attempts that ensued.

As a result, he put up fencing around the painting, and security remained on watch 24/7. But by the start of the new year, protective measures were no longer needed.

In January 2019, Banksy collector John Brandler told the BBC that he purchased “Seasons Greetings” for more than £100,000 ($US129,000). Lewis received higher offers for the artwork, according to Brandler, but turned them down in order to keep the mural in Port Talbot.


You probably remember “The Scream” as a bright painting.

Photo 12/Getty ImagesThe painting has become a prominent part of pop culture.

It was created by Edvard Munch in 1893 after he saw the sky turn red and then heard an “infinite scream passing through nature.”


So you might be disappointed to find out that not every version of the painting is so colourful.

picture alliance/Getty ImagesMunch created different versions, including lithographs.

As it turns out, Munch created four versions of the painting, all of which are currently on display at different museums. He also created up to 45 different lithographs of the design.


Each version of “The Scream” is similar, but some lack the vibrancy of the most well-known version.

Oli Scarff/Getty ImagesWhile some appreciate the piece’s history, others might be disappointed by the differences.

Some versions’ colours are more washed out.


One of Munch’s final versions of “The Scream” is missing key parts of the earlier versions.

Chesnot/Getty ImagesNearly 20 years after creating the original painting, Munch recreated his work in 1910.

The subject’s eyeballs are missing in the 1910 version, and far fewer colours are used throughout.


Many travellers visit the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain to see the bronze spider sculpture that sits outside.

Tim Adams/Flickr/Attribution LicenceArtist Louise Bourgeois used spiders as a symbol of maternity throughout her career.

Louise Bourgeois created the sculpture, called Maman, as a tribute to her mother.


Up close, the sculpture’s surroundings aren’t all that inspiring.

Tim Graham/Getty ImagesThe spot is always crowded by visitors who are eager to snap a photo with the sculpture.

A pool of murky green water surrounds the museum and sculpture, making for a less-than-perfect photo op.


Tourists love to visit New York City’s Financial District to see the Charging Bull sculpture.

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty ImagesThe statue is a form of guerrilla art and was created without being commissioned.

Artist Arturo Di Modica installed the sculpture without permission in 1989.


But thousands of people visit the spot every day.

Hugo Cadavez/Flickr/Attribution LicenceYou’ll have to wait your turn to get a photo with the artwork.

Charging Bull was relocated after its initial installation, and the new spot is relatively small in relation to the mass amount of tourists it attracts.


And because New York is prone to snow in the winter, the bull isn’t always bronze.

Though the statue is usually still visible in the snow, visitors might be disappointed by the change.


Even with the help of a selfie stick, you might have trouble getting a photo with the art.

Brazil Photo Press/Getty ImagesOne visitor attempted to take a photo with the statue while in the snow.

Many locals and visitors are eager to snap photos with the bull.


Pablo Picasso painted “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in 1907.

Allie_Caulfield/Flickr/Attribution LicenceThe image is a permanent piece in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art collection.

Though the painting originally received harsh criticism for its sexual theme, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” is now considered a famous work. It’s even sometimes deemed the beginning of modernism.


In person, large museum crowds can make it difficult to appreciate the painting.

Santi Visalli/Getty ImagesA group of museum goers relax in front of ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.’

While benches placed in the room give visitors an opportunity to sit with the painting, the view is often blocked by people taking photos.


Spoonbridge and Cherry is a quirky touch to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Justin Ladia/Flickr/Attribution LicenceIt remains the centrepiece of the garden.

The sculpture was installed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen in 1988 and has remained a favourite among visitors ever since.


But in the winter, the sculpture seems out of place.

Jim Winstead/Flickr/Attribution LicenceThe ideal times to visit this piece are in the spring and summer.

The cold snow contrasts strangely with the sculpture, which spouts water from the cherry’s stem on warmer days.


This Balloon Flower sculpture is one of many created by artist Jeff Koons.

Ryan/Flickr/Attribution LicenceThis one is located in New York City.

According to ArtDaily, each Balloon Flower sculpture “attracts people to look at it, and then reflects them back at themselves.”


But like many sculptures installed in cold climates, you might find it covered in snow.

Vincent Desjardins/Flickr/Attribution LicenceTravellers would likely be disappointed to find the sculpture in this state.

During bad storms, Ballon Flower becomes barely visible.


The Louvre is stunning to look at from the outside.

edwin.11/Flickr/Attribution LicenceThe museum is located in Paris.

Even if you don’t go inside to view the artwork, the museum’s structure is worth a visit in and of itself.


But it doesn’t look as remarkable on rainy days.

Jordan Klein/Getty ImagesThe Louvre isn’t as glamorous when it’s not illuminated by lights and sunbeams.

Of course, there’s plenty to see inside the museum that could make up for bad weather.


Eugène Delacroix created “Liberty Leading the People” to commemorate France’s July Revolution of 1830.

1st Art Gallery/Wikimedia Commons/Public DomainThe woman in the painting is meant to represent liberty.

Although I may not have fought for my country, at least I shall have painted for her,” Eugène Delacroix said of the painting in a letter sent to his brother.


However, many visitors of the Louvre have a tough time seeing the painting up close.

brownpau/Flickr/Attribution LicenceGroups of people stand in front of the painting using their phones to take photos of it.

“Liberty Leading the People” draws big crowds, making it difficult for travellers to admire the iconic work.

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