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Globally, the 100 top art museums and galleries attract more than 141 million visitors per year, and art tourism (engaging in culturally-led activities while traveling) make up a huge proportion of these visits.[1]

But is the experience of seeing a Van Gogh, a Rembrandt, a Warhol in the flesh really worth it? Or is your time better spent picking up a postcard? To investigate we scraped 18,176 reviews which mention 100 of the world's most famous artworks and the museums that house them to find out which experiences were most disappointing (and which art experiences exceeded expectations).

Key findings:

  • Mona Lisa claims the title of the 'world's most disappointing masterpiece' (37.1% negative mentions)

  • 'Crowds' were mentioned in 127 negative reviews of the Mona Lisa and Louvre experience

  • Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People, in Paris and Dali's Persistence of Memory in New York complete the top 3 most overrated artworks.

  • Sir Frederic Leightons' Flaming June in the Museo de Arte Ponce, Puerto Rico, is the world's most liked masterpiece (94% positive reviews).

  • Frans Hals' The Laughing Cavalier in London and Van Gogh's Irises in Los Angeles, are the 2nd and 3rd most recommended artworks.

  • Victims of their own success? Artworks in The Museum of Modern Art, New York, featured four times, and the Louvre, Paris three times in the bottom ten.

Which art capitals are the most disappointing?

Just over half (53.8%) of all the top artworks in the study are shown in five cities: New York, Paris, London, Chicago and Florence.

But if you are traveling to these cities, hoping for a culturally rewarding experience and a chance to see one (or a few) of your favorite paintings, where might you leave feeling disappointed?

Overall, viewing artworks in Paris is the most likely to leave you feeling underwhelmed – as just over a quarter (27.6%) of reviews mentioning Paris' most famous masterpieces were negative. Rather than contend with the crowds at the Louvre, data suggests people take a trip to the Musee Orsay where you can see greats like Whistler's Mother and Olympia.

New York wasn't close behind though with a score of 26.7% – visitors here may want to take a trip beyond the MoMa and the Met to the smaller Neue Galerie, where Klimt's masterpiece Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is displayed (with a much lower disapproval rating of 16.1%).

On the other hand reviews on masterpieces shown in London had a significantly lower number of negative reviews (at just 13.5%). In fact, three of the top five most recommended masterpieces in this list are displayed there.

Top 5 most disappointing cities for masterpieces

City % of negative reviews Most disappointing viewing experience Most enjoyed viewing experience
Paris, France 27.6% Mona lisa, The Louvre Olympia, Musee d'Orsay
New York, U.S. 26.7% The Persistence of Memory, Museum of Modern Art Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Neue Galerie
Florence, Italy 18.1% The Birth of Venus, The Uffizi Gallery David, Galleria dell'Accademia
Chicago, U.S. 16.8% Nighthawks, The Art Institute of Chicago A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, The Art Institute of Chicago
London, England 13.5% The Arnolfini Portrait, The National Gallery The Laughing Cavalier, The Wallace Collection

The world's most disappointing masterpieces

To create our ranking, we analyzed the language of reviews (specifically looking for words like 'disappointing' and 'overrated' but also positive phrases like 'underrated' and 'do not miss') and the ratio of highly rated to lowly rated reviews.

It's important to note that it is more often not the artwork itself which is disappointing, but the experience of seeing them which falls flat. Many of the greatest artworks of all time are victims of their own success, attracting disorganized crowds and expensive ticket prices.

Top 10 most disappointing masterpieces

Rank Masterpiece Artist Location Negative reviews
1st Mona lisa Leonardo da Vinci The Louvre, Paris 37.1%
2nd Liberty Leading the People Eugène Delacroix The Louvre, Paris 34.5%
3rd The Persistence of Memory Salvador Dali Museum of Modern Art, New York 31.2%
4th Campbell's Soup Cans Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art, New York 30.5%
5th Impression Sunrise Claude Monet Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris 29.4%
6th The Starry Night Vincent Van Gogh Museum of Modern Art, New York 28.9%
7th Guernica Pablo Picasso The Reina Sofía, Madrid 26.2%
8th School of Athens Raphael Pinacoteca Vatican, Vatican City 25.2%
9th Almond Blossom Vincent Van Gogh Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam 24.4%
10th The Birth of Venus Sandro Botticelli Uffizi Gallery, Florence 23.7%

1. Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci, 1503, Paris

Every year, around eight million tourists flood the Louvre with a common aim: a moment with the Mona Lisa. At only 30 inches by 20, this painted panel of wood has a large hold over the public's imagination – and five centuries later, noblewoman Lisa del Giocondo may be the oldest woman to have her own mailbox for love letters and flowers. [2] [3]

But is it worth paying a €22 entrance fee – and jostling with a crowd of strangers – to catch a fleeting glimpse? Nearly four in ten reviews (37.1%) negatively mentioned the Mona Lisa. For context, the average percentage of negative reviews for the 100 artworks were 19.2%. "Never Been So Dissappointed", "Torture" – these are just some of the hundreds of negative mentions from reviewers. In fact, 'crowds' were mentioned a total of 127 times in reviews, with 'difficult' the next most mentioned negative keyword with 50 results.

Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci, 1503

2. Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix, 1830, Paris

Perhaps a casualty of the rush towards the Mona Lisa, Liberty Leading the People – also in the Louvre – came next on our list with a negativity rating of 34.5%. The epic painting by Eugène Delacroix, of a triumphant crowd pushing forward through a barricade is not unlike the experience of seeing it: 'if you like queuing and pushing and sho[v]ing rather than art then you'll love the Louvre' one reviewer writes.

And unfortunately, mentions related to the 'crowded' and 'insane and poorly organized' museum overshadow any praise given to Liberty Leading the People in viewers' reviews. The word 'crowds' was mentioned 32 times.

Liberty Leading the People

Liberty Leading the People, Eugène Delacroix, 1830

The Louvre is the world's most visited museum, and it feels like it. The good news is that from 2023 the Louvre will limit the number of daily visitors to 30,000. Whether this is enough to give masterpieces like The Mona Lisa, and Liberty Leading the People the peace and quiet they deserve, is unsure.[4]

3. The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali, 1931, New York

If Campbell's Soup Cans are hard for some to grasp, then try making sense of Dali's surrealist Persistence of Memory which you might know as 'melting clocks' or the 'melting watches'.

Like the Mona Lisa, viewers might be surprised to find this painting is a modest 9.5 by 13 inches (the size of a large iPad). But it's not the size that disappoints, and despite being more left-field than Warhol's soup cans, it's not the surrealism that alienates viewers either.

The Persistence of Memory

The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali, 1931

The reason this masterpiece came 4th on the list, and has the 3rd greatest percentage of negative mentions overall (31.2%) , has more to do with the disappointment of not being able to see the painting (The words 'disappointed' and 'disappointing' made up a third of the negative mentions).

Due to the impressive art collection it holds, the MoMa has a steep entry fee of €27.66 (the 2nd most expensive in the list after The Art Institute of Chicago). Considering this high price, visitors who pay to see famous works (like The Persistence of Memory) are left disappointed when they find these pieces are on loan to other galleries without obvious notices.

4. Campbell's Soup Cans, Andy Warhol, 1961-62, New York

The 32 hand-painted soup cans, which Warhol produced between 1961-62 challenged what we consider 'art'. And according to reviews, which are 30.5% negative, it still challenges people today.

'I don't consider a bunch of pictures of Campbell soup cans art! I don't even like canned soup. Not impressed at all! I don't recommend it!', says one lady. Another says 'most of the exhibits are really lame and make no sense, like one room is all pictures of Campbell soup cans, that's it!'.

Campbell's Soup Cans

Campbell's Soup Cans, Andy Warhol, 1961-62

Perhaps making a pilgrimage to the world's third busiest museum, and finding what you left at home in your kitchen cabinet, is not considered money and time well spent by some visitors.

5. Impression Sunrise, Claude Monet, 1872, Paris

A painting so groundbreaking that it gave name to the impressionist movement and so coveted Yukuza gangsters stole it in 1985. Although now one of Monet's most notable works, when debuted in 1872, the hazy water scene was overlooked by critics. Maybe they were right to, as three in ten (29.4%) of viewers had something negative to say.

"Once upon a time, the Marmottan was a wonderful little museum" One reviewer begins, "Not anymore. They have given over to the giant bring-in-the-dollars exhibition craze. The permanent is not good enough to fight through crowds for." In fact 60% of all negative mentions referenced 'crowds'.

Although the painting itself receives no criticism, it is clearly not worth the trip to the edge of the city. 'This museum is a long way from central Paris, quite expensive and not included on the Paris Museum Pass, and doesn't have much in it - seeing it takes 1.5hrs, which is as long as it takes to get here from central Paris and back!' one person complains. Other negative reviews are simply titled 'big disappointment', 'go elsewhere' and 'frosty staff'.

Impression Sunrise

Impression Sunrise, Claude Monet, 1872

The world's most impressive masterpieces

Top 10 most impressive masterpieces

Rank Masterpiece Artist Location Negative reviews
1st Flaming June Lord Frederick Leighton Museo de Arte Ponce, Puerto Rico 6.0%
2nd The Laughing Cavalier Frans Hals The Wallace Collection, London 7.5%
3rd Irises Vincent Van Gogh The Getty Museum, Los Angeles 8.0%
4th The Swing Jean-Honoré Fragonard The Wallace Collection, London 8.5%
5th The Calling of Saint Matthew Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome 8.7%
6th Tower of Babel Pieter Bruegel the Elder Museum of the Art History, Vienna 9.6%
7th Girl with a Pearl Earring Johannes Vermeer Mauritshuis, The Hague 10.8%
8th The Sistine Madonna Raphael Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden 11.5%
9th David Michelangelo Accademia Gallery, Florence 12.2%
10th The Fighting Temeraire William Turner The National Gallery, London 12.3%

1. Flaming June, Sir Frederic Leighton, 1895, Puerto Rico

In the small island of Puerto Rico, is the Caribbean's largest art museum. And despite being far from Europe, is home to one of the finest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art. [5]

The most notable piece in the gallery is as one reviewer describes the Latin Mona Lisa: Flaming June. Flaming June, painted by Sir Frederic Leighton, depicts a sleeping woman in a transparent orange dress. It was described by the founder of the Courtauld Institute (one of the most prestigious art colleges in the world) as "the most wonderful painting in existence".[6]

Flaming June

Flaming June, Sir Frederic Leighton, 1895

And, whereas the average painting in the study had received 19.2% negative mentions, Flaming June received just 6%. The painting lives up to its reputation: many visitors referred to it as a 'favorite' or 'highlight' of their visit, and mention its beauty (calling the painting 'gorgeous', a 'real beauty' and that 'the colors are brilliant').

It's not just the picture itself dazzling the viewers. Multiple visitors mentioned the frame too, which is a 'piece of artwork in itself'.

The entry price is only €5.50 – a small price to pay to see one of the world's most impressive paintings.

2. The Laughing Cavalier, Frans Hals, 1624, London

If the Mona Lisa has the world's most underwhelming smile, then Frans Hals The Laughing Cavalier has art's most infectious grins. The joyful painting is one of the most well-known old master paintings.

It seems that the audience do not feel too cheated that the sitter is neither laughing, nor a cavalier, as only 7.5% of reviewers were left disappointed. Commenters praised the quality of the painting and restoration (calling it 'richly coloured', praising 'the skill [and] execution' of the artist and more). And unlike more expensive galleries in this list, reviewers frequently mentioned how this painting and others were 'beautifully displayed' and that the gallery in general was well organized.

The Laughing Cavalier

The Laughing Cavalier, Frans Hals, 1624

And, whereas visitors to the Louvre and the MoMa mentioned surly staff, according to reviews, the attendants at this museum are just as friendly and relaxed as the unknown sitter of the painting.

And one reviewer even confirmed the famous myth surrounding the painting: 'his eyes do genuinely follow you around the room.'

The Laughing Cavalier has a long history of bringing joy to the masses, and was purposefully kept in Bethnal Green in London to be accessible to the working class. Carrying forward this legacy, The Laughing Cavalier is still free to view in the Wallace Collection, making the piece even more appreciated by its audience.[7]

3. Irises, Vincent Van Gogh, 1599-1600, Los Angeles

Two Vincent Van Gogh's made the top 10 most disappointing list: The Starry Night at 6th, and Almond Blossom at 9th. Unfortunately, according to reviews of the MoMa and the Van Gogh Museum, viewers of these paintings have to contend with 'hordes of selfie-takers' and 'cell photo crowds' which sour the experience of seeing them.

Van Gogh lovers might instead want to consider climbing up to the Getty Center, which sits on a hill overlooking Los Angeles. In contrast to the 'overstimulating' experience of seeing other Van Gogh pieces, Reviewers raved about the chilled atmosphere, with one even explaining 'Imagine every art gallery you have ever been to. Imagine them all housed together in stunning modern architecture surrounded by beautiful outdoor spaces and gardens. That's the Getty Centre.'

And when it comes to Irises itself, the praise keeps coming. Only 8% of the reviews of the painting were negative. Praise includes: 'highlight', 'A must-visit', 'wow. I had no idea just how wonderful it would be' and 'I could have sat in front of Irises by Van Gogh for hours', and despite the rest of the museum being well received, 'Van Gogh's irises alone [is] worth the trip.'


Irises, Vincent Van Gogh, 1599-1600

4. The Swing, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1767, London

In credit to its atmosphere,The Wallace Collection has another entry in the top five: Fragonard's The Swing with a negativity score of 8.5%. Considered to be one of the masters of the Rococo era (think over the top and ornate styles), this painting – which depicts an elegant young woman on a swing – is as cheerful as the Laughing Cavalier.

And the painting alone attracts visitors to the museum. 'Well worth the visit just to see it', 'what a fantastic classic.' with some reviewers calling it the 'best painting' in the collection.In 2021, the painting was painstakingly renovated – preserving its beauty for a generation of new viewers.

The Swing

The Swing, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1767

5. The Calling of Saint Matthew, Caravaggio, 1599-1600, Rome

Don't let the religious subjects of his paintings fool you, Caravaggio – an arrogant, rebellious, murderer – was no saint. Just like his life, his artworks are famed for their dramatic intensity.

The Calling of Saint Matthew emotively depicts the moment Jesus enlist Matthew to the disciples… and yet leaves the identity of Matthew in the painting intriguingly ambiguous. The painting is part of a trilogy which hangs in the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome.

The Calling of Saint Matthew

The Calling of Saint Matthew, Caravaggio, 1599-1600

Pope Francis isn't the only fan of the Baroque masterpiece. Reviewers call it 'spectacular', 'so captivating, so haunting, unforgettable' and the most 'powerful works of art' and the 'pinnacle of art' praising the use of 'rich, dramatic colors'.[8] Only 8.7% of reviewers had something negative to say about the painting.

The best part is that like the Wallace Collection, the church is free to enter and as one reviewer calls it 'A pilgrimage site for art history lovers'.



Online reviews of galleries mentioning the paintings were then scraped: a total of 18,176 reviews together. The following positive and negative words and phrases were then identified, accounting for misspellings and conjugations. Negative phrases were reviewed - i.e "Was not disappointed" not counting towards "disappointed" for accuracy.

  • unfortunately

  • shame

  • difficult

  • frustrating

  • terrible

  • boring

  • Underwhelming

  • Disappointing

  • Disappointed

  • Overhyped

  • Overrated

  • Overpriced

  • Not worth

  • Stressful

  • Crowds

  • overcrowded

  • Underrated

  • Beautiful

  • Amazing

  • Stunning

  • Magnificent

  • Excellent

  • Worth it

  • Worth the hype

  • don't miss

  • do not miss

  • not disappointed

  • didn't disappoint

  • recommend

  • a must

  • impresses

  • impressed

When the results were collected for all 100 paintings, for accuracy, the pieces with a total count of reviews lower than 50 were dismissed, leaving 41 paintings. The study then calculated the percentage of negative and positive mentions.

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