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Great Smirks of Art

April 05, 1998|JANET KINOSIAN

Some art is so bad it screams to be reproduced. So goes the philosophy of Boston's infamous MOBA--the Museum of Bad Art--which brings some of its most popular pieces of dreadful work to T-shirts. Or as the museum's curator, Scott Wilson, notes: "Haven't T-shirts always been the breeding ground for the best of booming bad art?"

Three of the museum's 200-plus-piece collection are honored on silk-screened shirts: "Sunday on the Pot With George," a pointillist portrait; "Pals," a clown being given a massage by a lovelorn monkey; and "Pablo Presley," the King in his kitschiest Blue Christmas period. The best runner-up was "Suicide," which portrays a despondent cow plunging to its demise.

"Our mission is to bring the worst of art to the widest of audiences," says Marie Jackson, the museum's director of artistic expression.

Founded in 1994 with its first acquisition, "Lucy in the Field With Flowers" (a painting of a dazed old woman lost in a daisy patch), the museum receives hundreds of submissions from around the world, Jackson says. Nine out of 10 are rejected, mostly, she says, because they're either "too good, or someone's trying too hard to be bad."

Automatically rejected are reproductions, works on velvet, paint-by-numbers, factory or mass-produced art, "obvious" student exercises and deliberately made bad art. To be considered, bad art must have cost no more than $6.50.

"We always say judging bad art is a bit like pornography--you'll know it when you see it," Jackson says. "It's not easy to get into any museum, but for artists we're a win-win. If you do get in, it's great; if not, you're too good."

T-shirts can be ordered for $15 at (800) 96LAUGHS or at

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