The Art of Tyrrell Winston: Art or Appropriation?

Tyrrell Winston is a contemporary artist known for his found-object artworks, which feature deflated basketballs, broken nets, and cigarette butt compositions. Living in New York, Winston walks around different neighborhoods and collects such “trash” to turn into sculptures, which are displayed in multiple galleries around the world.

Winston’s art is beautiful and thought-provoking–upon first viewing his work on social media, I was immediately captured by his deflated basketball sculptures, as their colorful vibrance has a unique beauty to it, and literally turns one man’s trash into another man’s treasure. I also enjoy viewing his cigarette “paintings” as well–their uniformity has pleasing aesthetic qualities and questions America’s obsession with smoking despite knowledge of its harmful dangers. Both basketballs and cigarettes have become unofficial symbols of “coolness” and Winston’s popularity certainly has capitalized on this. It’s intriguing and somewhat endearing how his works of art evoke questions about ephemerality and identity with showing simple objects.

On the other hand, I personally believe Winston walks a fine line between art and appropriation. Marcel Duchamp is considered the pioneer of “Readymade” art in which found objects are considered art by placing them into a different context. Duchamp’s work during the 20th century was astounding at the time, and some of his most famous works are Fountain, a literal urinal, and everyday objects such as a bicycle wheel or a shovel. Tyrrell Winston’s work utilizes these artistic ideas of recontextualization and makes them his own, yet there is a point when work becomes redundant. Some of his critics accuse him of being pretentious, unoriginal, and boring. I’m not sure whether his work is truly “different” enough to be so renowned and celebrated.

In any case, Winston is a distinctive artist. Take a look at some of the art below and let me know your thoughts on Winston’s work!


Student at the University of Michigan studying Art & Design and Communication & Media, hoping to create meaningful design for social impact. Every week I highlight an intriguing artist (or group of artists)!

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4 Comments on "The Art of Tyrrell Winston: Art or Appropriation?"

a Black voice
1 year 3 months ago

This guy is proof that white people have no real criticality and humanity. It’s so clear this person uses Black culture, ephemera, and literally relies on Black death to create his “work.” Just take a look at his crack vile pieces from 2016. His interviews from that period and earlier. He’s had to switch his tune because of criticisms from the Black community, a community he’s actively silenced. This is all violent white gaze and Blackface.

2 years 2 days ago

I dig this

2 years 2 days ago

I’m not sure where you see appropriation. You think he’s appropriating Duchamp?
Redundant though? I can see that. But I feel like he’s regularly finding new materials to use, just like an abstract sculptor would find new ways to use their materials.