The Museum of Hoaxes
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April Fool's Day Art Hoaxes
Mona Lisa Smiles on Demand. (1935)
The Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung reported the discovery that Leonardo da Vinci had originally painted the Mona Lisa frowning, not smiling. As a result, the Louvre had restored the painting to its original condition. But because the Mona Lisa's unhappy scowl seemed to rob the painting of much of its charm, the museum's directors were considering changing the frown back into a smile. More…
Playing Checkers. (1943)
The April 3 issue of the Saturday Evening Post had an April Fool cover drawn by Norman Rockwell, in which the artist placed 45 "mistakes and incongruities." (Click the cover to see a larger version, and the list of mistakes.) More…
Blue Lobster Fishing. (1945)
Norman Rockwell created a second April Fool cover for the Saturday Evening Post. His first such cover, in 1943, had been the magazine's most popular cover ever. Like its predecessor, the 1945 cover contained numerous "mistakes and incongruities" — 50 in all, according to Rockwell. However, the Post editors warned readers that the blue lobster didn't count as a mistake, noting that the "blue lobster is a rarity, but every once in a while one of them turns up in Maine waters." More…
Playing With Dolls. (1948)
The April 3 issue of the Saturday Evening Post featured an April Fool cover by Norman Rockwell, in which the artist had placed 56 "mistakes and incongruities." It was the third such April Fool cover by Rockwell. (The previous ones ran in 1943 and 1945.) Click the cover to see the list of mistakes. More…
Easter Island Statue Washes Ashore. (1962)
On March 29, 1962, a man walking along the beach near the Dutch town of Zandvoort reported a bizarre discovery. He had found, washed up on the sand, a small statue that looked just like the famous statues on Easter Island. Based on the statue's weathered appearance, it seemed that the ocean currents must have carried it all the way from the South Pacific to the Netherlands. The discovery made headlines around the world. An expert from Norway confirmed it was an authentic Easter Island artifact. But on April 1, a local artist named Edo van Tetterode confessed that he had actually made the statue and planted it on the beach, having been inspired by the research of Thor Heyerdahl. More…
Stolen Pieta Driven Through Florence. (1962)
Thousands of people in Florence, Italy came out to see Michelangelo's Pieta statue driven through the city in the back of a truck. A poster on the truck declared that the statue, which normally resided in the Vatican City, had been "taken from Rome by Florentine artists so it won't be shipped anywhere." The artists were angry at the Pope's decision to allow the Pieta to be temporarily moved to New York to be displayed at the 1964 World's Fair. The people lining the streets applauded the truck and the brazen theft of the statue, but when the truck stopped before the cathedral in the city, it could be seen that the statue was actually only a plaster cast of the Pieta. The real Pieta was More…

Van Gogh’s Crayola Masterpiece. (1970)
Wisconsin's Sheboygan Press reported that an anonymous buyer had purchased one of Vincent Van Gogh's "great masterpieces" for $186,000 and was donating it to the John Michael Kohler Art Center. The work was a "pencil-and-Crayola" drawing titled "A Prity Day." Van Gogh created the work in 1860. (Van Gogh was born in 1853.) The Sheboygan Press noted that the work had long been "a favorite with the intellectual art community," and that one scholar had "devoted nearly five years to analyzing it." More…
Mona Lisa Frowns. (1990)
The Independent reported that an art restoration team doing extensive cleaning of the Mona Lisa had made a startling discovery. Although the woman in the painting is famous for her smile, once the layers of dirt had been removed, it was found that she was actually scowling. More…
Nat Tate. (1998)
On the eve of April Fool's Day, a lavish party was held at Jeff Koons's New York studio to honor the memory of the late, great American artist Nat Tate — a troubled abstract expressionist who destroyed 99 percent of his own work before leaping to his death from the Staten Island ferry. At the party, David Bowie read aloud selections from William Boyd's soon-to-be released biography of Tate, Nat Tate: An American Artist, 1928-1960. Critics in the crowd murmured appreciative comments about Tate's work as they sipped their drinks. What they didn't know is that Tate had never existed. He was the satirical creation of William Boyd. Bowie, Boyd, and Boyd's publisher were the only ones in on More…
Porcelain BMW Statuette. (circa 2003?)
BMW announced the limited availability of a porcelain statuette of the BMW Z8, created by the "legendary Prussian ceramicist" Loof Lirpa. The actual size of the statuette, a note at the bottom of the ad revealed, was 15ft x 5ft. [Note: I don't know when or where this ad ran. The BMW Z8 was produced between 1999 and 2003, so presumably this ad ran at some point in that time period.] More…
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.