What Are the Most Memorable Works of Visual Art You’ve Ever Seen?


Are you attracted to visual art? Do you go to exhibits? Stop on the street to admire murals, graffiti or public sculpture? Scroll through artistic photos on social media? Or even make your own?

If so, what kind of work most frequently catches your eye? What individual pieces have you found most meaningful or influential over the years? Why?

Even if you don’t think of yourself as an art lover, are there works of visual art that have made a strong impression on you, whether from childhood or only recently? How would you describe them? Why do you think you remember them? If you were to seek out visual art that would interest you right now, where might it be found?

To help you think about these questions, you might scroll through the New York Times Art and Design section. Below, we’ve chosen a few recent pieces and posed some related questions, but we encourage you to find your own, too.

We’ll start with the multisensory piece shown at the top of this post, from the exhibit “Tomás Saraceno: Particular Matter(s).” Here is how an article about it begins:

“You need to check out this installation in NYC,” reads the title card of the TikTok post.

“Must love spiders,” adds a qualifier in the caption.

The video opens onto the mouth of a white globe, 95 feet in diameter, inside the McCourt space of the Shed, a cultural center in the Hudson Yards neighborhood, where an interactive exhibition by the Argentine artist Tomás Saraceno opened in February. Overhead, 40 feet above the ground, scattered people clamber across wire mesh netting. Twenty-eight feet below, visitors sprawl out on their backs, limbs outstretched.

If you could, would you want to experience this piece, or other “interactive and experience-based art” similar to it?

Next, here is a slide show about work you can see on the streets of the Bronx:

Do you like graffiti and other kinds of street art? What are some of the more memorable works you have seen, in any artistic genre?

Maybe you’re a fan of some of the masters of 19th- or 20th- century painting, like J.M.W. Turner, whose works you can see at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston right now, or Winslow Homer, whose paintings are on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Have you ever seen the painting above, which many consider Homer’s greatest work? What other famous paintings do you know and admire?

If you’d like to see a range of contemporary works in many genres, there may be an exhibit near you like the Whitney Biennial. Here is a piece from the current show, a survey of recent American art, which, a Times critic writes, is “freighted with three years of soul-rattling history marked by social divisiveness, racist violence and relentless mortality.”

What visual arts have you seen over the last few years that speak especially well to the political and social issues of our world today? Another collection that tries to address such questions is the annual New York Times photojournalism roundup, called The Year in Pictures. Here are the Year in Pictures collections from 2020 and 2021. Which images stand out for you?

Finally, maybe you’re interested in nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, even if the question of whether or not they are art is still an open one. What do you think of the piece below?

Students, check out some of these images and the Art and Design section, then tell us:

  • What kinds of visual art most appeal to you? Why do you think that is?

  • What works first came to mind when you saw the question at the top of this post? Did you think of more examples as you read on?

  • Describe at least one memorable work of art in as much detail as you can. How did it affect you when you first saw it? How does it affect you now?

  • Do you seek out visual art, via museums, social media, studios, walks on city streets or in any other way? Do you create it yourself? What inspires you most?

  • Did anything you found in this post or by scrolling through the Art and Design section surprise you, inspire a strong reaction, or challenge you in some way? What? Why?


Want more writing prompts? You can find all of our questions in our Student Opinion column. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate them into your classroom.

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.


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