Review: "Mona Lisa Unveiled" Ranges From Britto Eyesores to Duchamp Readymades

Miami Dade College's new exhibit "Mona Lisa Unveiled," at the Freedom Tower, ranges from the plain silly to the sublime. There are variations of the Gioconda's enigmatic, smiling puss ranging from Romero Britto's eyesore Mona Cat to Marcel Duchamp's sight for sore eyes, Mona Lisa L.H.O.O.Q. readymade hanging nearby.

Duchamp's famous parody is made by adorning a cheap reproduction with a crudely drawn moustache and a goatee. It includes the rude inscription that when read out loud in French sounds like "Elle a chaud au cul" (literally translated: "she has a hot ass."

And, not unlike Helen of Troy who launched a thousand ships, Da Vinci's iconic brunette has launched a thousand copy cats. Currently valued at $750 million clams, the divine Mona has been painted 300 times and appeared in over 2,000 commercials and ads during the past century.

And, while the average visitor to the Louvre spends a mere 15 seconds gawking at her features, here you can flitter away a whole afternoon musing over more than 60 interpretations of her gob.The exhibit is split in two parts: One focuses on the history of the Mona Lisa as an artistic motif, with artworks and documents dating from the 16th to 19th centuries. The other concentrates on contemporary manifestations of the paintings after its theft from the Louvre in 1911.

The show's opening coincided with the 100th anniversary of the sensational art heist of the Mona Lisa by Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian house painter that had worked at the Louvre before snatching the oil-on-poplar-wood masterpiece. He later kept it hidden in the false bottom of a battered trunk tucked under his bed. It took two years before Peruggia was nabbed and at one point Picasso and French poet Guillaume Apollinaire were both suspected of the crime.

Although the exhibit boasts a recently rediscovered 16th century Nude Mona Lisa by Leonardo's favorite pupil Salai, the intriguing aspect of this show are the seemingly infinite replicas and quirky takes on the Gioconda's famous mug.Take for example a Pseudo-Botero tapestry depicting the Mona Lisa as a butterball or a Korean Mona Lisa, made with seashell fragments from the Paekho Arts Trading Company, run by the Korean People's Army.

There's also a Mona Lisa with a fly on her snoot and another one decked out as a pig. One of the knockouts on display includes a 1930 lithograph by Fernand Leger.And there are plenty of other versions on display that catch the eye while others that Peruggia himself would never dream of laying his mitts on or even Nat King Cole could love.

In a nutshell the exhibit falls short of attaining the blockbuster status organizers aspired to, but it is still worth a visit considering the Gioconda remains by far the most famous and duplicated painting in the world.

"Mona Lisa Unveiled" Through October. Freedom Tower 600 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami. Call 305-237-7700 or visit


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