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MA divided

The Modern Art illusion.

Although not generally classified as a "sawing" illusion, Modern Art is sometimes billed as an "upright dividing the lady in two".


The illusion was designed by Jim Steinmeyer and was published in 1995 in Modern Art and Other Mysteries. It was developed from an earlier standing sawing illusion called "Split Image", designed by Marc O'Brien.


The illusion uses a vertical cabinet which stands alongside a table-like structure that is half its height. The assistant enters the cabinet through a door in the side away from the table structure. The assistant's face can be seen peering from an opening at the top of the cabinet, their right hand can be seen projecting through a hole close to her waist, and their bare toes project through a hole at the bottom of the cabinet. A sword or blade is then placed into a slot at the point where the top of the half-height table meets the cabinet. The top of the cabinet then slides across onto the table, moving the top half of the assistant past the blade and cutting them in half through the waist. Panels in the front of the cabinet are opened to show that the top and bottom halves of the assistant are completely separate. The top of the cabinet is then slid back into its original position and the assistant emerges unharmed.

Due to the simplicity of performance, this illusion is a popular choice for magicians when working with unskilled celebrity assistants.


Modern Art 3rd version

The second variation of Modern Art.

First variation - "Arms out"

In the first variation to be developed, vertical slots were provided in the sides of the upper half of the cabinet. Once the assistant has entered the cabinet and the doors have been closed, she can place her arms through these slots, keeping them in view throughout the performance.

Second variation - "Head out"

The second variation on the basic illusion to be developed greatly reduces the size of the upper half of the box in both height and width. When the assistant enters the box, this allows their head to project through a hole in the top of the box, and their arms through holes in the sides.

Third variation - "Instant Art"


"Instant Art" - The third variation of Modern Art.

The third variation developed, sometimes known as "Instant Art", takes the modifications introduced by the second variation one stage further. In many ways, it can be considered to be a standing version of the Clearly Impossible sawing.

In this version of the illusion, the cabinet is open-fronted, allowing the assistant's whole body within it to remain in view throughout the entire performance. In addition to their head and arms projecting out of the upper box, the lower box is made shorter than in other versions and raised up above the wheeled base, allowing their feet and ankles to project out of the bottom, rather than just their toes. Also, the supporting table from the other versions is omitted, leaving no support below the upper part of the box when it is moved to the side to divide the assistant. Finally, when the upper section is moved, it is able to go beyond the edge of the lower section, showing that the assistant really has been divided completely in half.

As the assistant remains in full view of the audience throughout the performance, this is a particularly effective version, but can still be performed using untrained celebrity assistants or audience volunteers.


Silvan 2011-2012 Modern Art reloaded

Silvan performs the Modern Art Reloaded illusion on a female assistant

Modern Art Reloaded

Developed by Pro-Magic and marketed as a one person, improved version of the original, this version of the illusion features no upper box at all and allows the lower box with the legs to be lifted and tilted. Although the illusion could be done with one person, assistants are needed to revolve the prop. While some magicians present the illusion as a "self sawing", others perform it on a female assistant or guest celebrity. Unlike other versions of the illusion, the box used in this version is entered from the rear, rather than through the side. Like "Instant Art", the leg box has a clear front, giving an unobstructed view of the assistant's legs while they are in the illusion.

After the assistant has entered the illusion, the magician closes a circular stock around their waist, locking them into the illusion. The assistant's upper half is then slid sideways, moving it away from their legs. As the assistant's top half can clearly be seen to be sat on the small support ledge to the side of the lower box, and their still-moving legs can be seen through the clear front of the lower box, the audience can easily see that the assistant actually has been divided in half. The assistant is then able to grasp a handle, lift the leg box upwards and tilt it at an angle. The leg box is then returned to its normal position, the assistant's lower half slid back above their legs, and the assistant is then released from the illusion.

Notable performances

  • On her show The Simple Life, socialite and TV presenter Paris Hilton was sawed in half in the first version of Modern Art by magician Curtis Lovell II. Following this TV appearance, Lovell subsequently tried to sell his copy of the illusion via eBay for $1.7 Million.[1]
  • The original and "head out" versions were two of the many different sawing illusions performed on TV presenter Cat Deeley while she was presenting the CITV Saturday morning show SMTV Live.
  • Jessica Simpson Modern Art

    Jessica Simpson

    Jessica Simpson has been sawed in half in a performance of the original version of the illusion.
  • In 2004, former Spice Girl Emma Bunton was sawed in half in the original version by magician Stephen Mulhern when she appeared as a guest on the CITV Saturday morning show Ministry of Mayhem.
  • When she appeared as a guest assistant in his Las Vegas show The Beauty of Magic, former Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson was sawed in half by magician Hans Klok in his original version of the illusion.
  • When he appeared as a guest on her show LIVE with Gabby in 2012, Hans Klok performed his Modern Art illusion on show host Gabby Logan.[2]
  • During the first season of his children's TV show Tricky TV, Stephen Mulhern performed the original version of the illusion on singer Rachel Stevens.
  • During the second season of Tricky TV, Stephen Mulhern performed the "head out" variation of the illusion on his Ministry of Mayhem co-presenter and occasional assistant Holly Willoughby.
  • When actress Mischa Barton invited magician Dynamo to perform at her 23rd birthday party in September 2008, he closed his performance by sawing Mischa in half in the "head out" version of the illusion.
  • On the July 31, 2000 episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, magician Lance Burton sawed model and actress Jaime King in half in the original version of the illusion.


  1. Paris Hilton -Magic Trick Seen on, “The Simple Life." eBay.com.
  2. LIVE with Gabby, Channel 5, 22 March 2012.