4 Works That Give New Meaning to the Phrase “High Art”


Renegade Tours

The most important day in every self-confessed stoner’s diary is fast approaching. That’s right, 4/20 has rolled around again. (#sorrynotsorry)

Over the last several years, marijuana hasn’t just been gaining acceptance across the general public, but within the museum world as well.

From the 2016 show “Altered State: Marijuana in California” at the Oakland Museum of California to last year’s glass-pipe show “The Treachery of Images” at the National Liberty Museum, museums are slowly starting to pay more attention to marijuana culture. Of course, some museums, like the American Museum of Natural History, have had exhibits on pipes and other related smoking paraphernalia for decades, and, as you can see below, artists have featured cannabis in their work for a very long time.

Without further ado, here are four works that give new meaning to the phrase “high art.”

#1: Adriaen Brouwer. The Smokers, 1636

On view at The Metropolitan Museum in New York

Flemish painter Adriaen Brouwer’s famous ‘The Smokers’ depicts the artist himself getting baked in a tavern, drinking and smoking tobacco mixed with hemp. He is looking out of the canvas, blowing smoke out of his mouth with a ‘woahhh’ expression on his face, as if this hit of cannabis was particularly pungent. His buddy on the left is closing one nostril as he exhales. What a pro.

Hemp was everywhere in the Netherlands in the 16th Century (clearly not much has changed) and in 1590, Pope Urbanus VII issued the first ever ban on smoking, threatening to cut off rule-breakers’ noses. Clearly, though, Urbanus couldn’t keep Brouwer and his boys down.

#2: Frans Hals, The Smoker, 1626

On view at The Metropolitan Museum in New York

Painted by Dutch painter (are you noticing a theme here?) Frans Hals, who worked around the same time as Brouwer, this painting shows a young man clearly enjoying the effects of his hemp-filled pipe, as his friend on the left tries to get in on the action.

Can you honestly tell me this young man is not high? Look at his eyes! Look at his hair! Look at his flushed cheeks! If it wasn’t for the 16-century get-up, this joker wouldn’t be out of place in a bong shop in St. Marks.

#3: 20th Century Water Pipe

On view at The Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum in Barcelona

This ‘water pipe’ dates back to early 20th century Thailand. It is made from a calabash fruit which was then stuffed with tobacco and cannabis and smoked like a modern bong.

And here’s an interesting fact for you to impress your weed-loving pals with: the modern word for bong comes from the Thai word ‘baung’ meaning cylindrical wooden tube. Did your friends roll their eyes when you told them that? Save it for when they’re actually high, you might get a better reaction.

#4: Adam Miller’s “Bacchus with a Pipe”, 2010

Featured in The Chesterfield’s ‘Lit!’ exhibition in New York in 2017

According to his website, Oregon-born artist Adam Miller’s paintings are… deep breath… “an exploration between mythology, ecology and humanism, visually inspired by baroque and Hellenistic narrative painting they take a polytheistic approach to contemporary folklore, questions of progress and the experience of human narrative in the face of technological change and the struggle to find meaning in a world poised between expansion and decay’.”

Which sounds as though Miller’s been hitting the pipe himself.

Bacchus was the Roman god of agriculture and wine. If you’re going to be a god of anything, being the God of Wine is a good place to start.

But for Miller’s fro-sporting, bong-smoking Bacchus, wine was merely the gateway drug to cannabis. It’s a slippery slope, guys.

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