Those Crazy Fakirs!

January 23, 2020

In this era of fake news, deepfakes, and the blurring of truth and fiction, it may come as a surprise to learn about a time when art caricatures or “fakes” were popular and formed an integral part of American art school education. From 1891-1914, students attending the Art Students League in New York held annual exhibitions of “fake” art that parodied the work done by their instructors and other important artists. These creative students called themselves The Society of American Fakirs (rhymes with deers), and they loved spoofing the serious artists of the day like William Merritt Chase, John Singer Sargent, Cecilia Beaux, and many others.

Remembering The Society of American Fakirs, 1891-1914 brings together seven zany Fakir exhibition catalogs–themselves spoofs– with show advertisements and related ephemera showcasing the distinct early 20th century humor of the Art Students League. Using cartoons and illustrations, word games, inside jokes, tongue-twisters, poems, and jingles–as well as unexpected materials such as lobster claws, banana peels, and old shoes–the Society of American Fakirs pushed against the realism of the Gilded-age art world, anticipating the European Avante-garde that would take New York by storm in the 1913 Armory Show

This Kohler Art Library exhibition runs from December 19, 2019 – February 18, 2020.

Read more here!