Practiced across the globe during the 1960s, Op art (or Optical art) presented a new form of abstraction that played with the viewer’s visual perception. Often considered the “grandfather” of Op art, French-Hungarian artist Victor Vasarely began creating mind-bending paintings as early as the 1930s, leveraging his studies of science, color, and optics to produce images that seemed to move, swell, or change forms. In 1965, The Museum of Modern Art presented a survey of Vasarely’s followers in a seminal exhibition titled “The Responsive Eye,” showcasing works by Richard Anuszkiewicz, Bridget Riley, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Josef Albers, among others. Fashion brands soon popularized the bold patterns of Op art through their “Mod” designs, while art critics like Clement Greenberg critiqued the movement for its gimmicks and commercial appeal. In 2016, Riley broke the auction record for the historic movement when her black-and-white painting Untitled (Diagonal Curve) (1966) sold for nearly $6 million at Christie’s.

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