The question of real art versus parodies or animal art keeps on fascinating me. I scored 83% in the quiz, so most of the time I managed to distinguish between the work of famous artists and animals or untrained artists with a computer. But the thing is, I know a bit about art history, so I recognized some of the work, or at least the style. And I notice in some other messages that some people did well by simply noting which pieces were obviously done with a computer.
I think a better test might be this: give a few people examples of the work of, say, Rothko to study for a few days. Then have them all paint fake Rothkos (mind you, NOT by copying real Rothkos, but by making their own in the same style). Mix these up with real Rothkos, and redo the quiz. It will already eliminate one objection, namely that the masterpieces lose something in the reduction to computer screen size, because now both real and fake art works will be at the same disadvantage. I have a feeling that in this test, only people who know Rothko's work well enough to recognize specific works will do much better than chance.
But there is a larger issue here, I think. I scored 100% on the Pollock/bird poop quiz. It is pretty easy to distinguish Pollock from bird droppings once you are familiar with his style. But here's the question: is his work actually better than bird poop? After all, it is pretty easy to distinguish the handwriting of, say, Barack Obama from that of Nelson Mandela, once you are familiar with their handwriting. But does this mean one's writing is in any way superior to that of the other? The mere fact that you can distinguish A from B does not necessarily tell you much about whether A is any better than B.
The question isn't really whether we can distinguish between the fine motor skills of an experienced adult and that of an animal, child or person inexperienced with a brush. It seems to me reasonable that most people would fare better than chance on such a test. But what if you took an artistically inexperienced adult and gave him a month's crash course in abstract expressionism, and then had him paint ab-ex works? Are the "experts" going to be able to tell the difference? And if any average person can become an expert abstract expressionist in a month, then what does that tell us about the prices fetched by some of these works of art?
But with these issues there will always be endless room for debate. Perhaps it is kind of obvious that there is little mastery to producing a Pollock or Rothko. But what about Picasso or Matisse? Or Van Gogh, whose work is technically rather crude but enjoys very great and apparently very real popularity, not just among learned "experts" but even lay people, and is more popular than the work of technically far more skilled artists? What about the work of non-western artists, that follow a completely different aesthetic?
I have not quite worked out for myself what I think about that... ;-)
As an aside, it might be useful to do a similar quiz on whether people can distinguish some 20th century classical music from random noise... ;-)