Celebrities aren’t just at the checkout aisle at the supermarket anymore. They’ve infiltrated the art world.
Just a few weeks ago, MoMA’s “embarrassing” Björk show closed. Two years before, actress Tilda Swinton slept in a glass case in the museum’s atrium, reprising a similar stunt the actress pulled off at The Serpentine Gallery in London back in the mid-1990s. And now San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum opens Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait at the end of July, though to be fair, the exhibition is more about the late British pop star's life and legacy than any serious attempt to classify her as a visual artist.
Art history is filled with multi-talented individuals who float effortlessly through the artistic disciplines. But it is also filled with dilettantes.
Here are seven chameleons (or crossover artists, if you will) who shifted from stage or screen to the white cube -- to mixed results.
Where hasn’t this man dabbled? It’s hard to keep track of all his side projects, let alone separate the spoofs from the serious offerings. The most glaring of the latter was a much-maligned 2014 exhibition of photographs at New York’s Pace Gallery. New Film Stills recreated images from Cindy Sherman’s seminal series Untitled Film Series -- with Franco posing in drag as the young Sherman. The artist statement had something to do with role-reversal -- Sherman, an artist, looked to film; Franco, an actor, looks to art. But the final word came from Sherman herself. In a candid moment with the Observer she said, “I don’t know that I can say it’s art.”
This might be a little known fact, but Kim Gordon has always been an artist. Before Sonic Youth, before her fashion line, before moving to New York, Gordon studied art. She works in painting and sculpture, with a messy, punk-rock aesthetic of splatters and drips, silver spray paint and glitter. In her current solo show at 303 Gallery, Design Office: The City is a Garden, crumpled resin-covered canvases hold their shape like fake rocks, their surfaces covered with black text that takes jabs at New York’s highly manicured and antiseptic redevelopment.
Jay-Z aired his first “performance art video” on HBO, a ten-minute version of a six-hour performance at Pace Gallery in 2013. The artwork doubles as a music video for “Picasso Baby” -- a song about living large with expensive art. Inside the gallery, Jay-Z raps for a celebrity audience, some of whom take turns sitting on a bench to gaze at the performer. The event was “explicitly inspired” by Marina Abramović’s The Artist Is Present, and Abramović herself makes an appearance. Jay-Z likens the event to a concert in a different setting, ignoring the strange blend of celebrity cameos, adoring fans and armchair philosophizing. “We’re artists, we’re alike, we’re cousins,” he says.
The child star turned tongue-waggling pop figure who brought us "Wrecking Ball," also produces readymade sculpture. As Cyrus puts it in her artist statement, courtesy of artnet News: “I had a bunch of f**king junk and s**t, and so instead of letting it be junk and s**t, I turned it into something that made me happy." The pieces, over-the-top assemblages of cheap toys, craft materials, drug paraphernalia and plastic beads, appeared at Art Basel Miami in 2014 thanks to former Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art director Jeffrey Deitch.
Like Cyrus, Shia LaBeouf is another grown up child star who decided he could do it all. LaBeouf’s career as a performance artist can be traced back to the “existential crisis” he suffered after Oakland cartoonist Daniel Clowes accused him of plagiarism in 2013. Collaborating with artists Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner, LaBeouf wore a paper bag over his head proclaiming “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE,” commissioned some skywriting, staged an endurance performance at Los Angeles’ Cohen Gallery and overall, showed himself to have an amazing talent for appropriating and regurgitating the words and work of others.
Remember Maeby Fünke from television’s Arrested Development? She makes art now! Alia Shawkat, the actress behind the con artist character and other screen projects, creates mixed media works on paper. Her pieces (for sale on her website) are full of strange cartoonish characters, Raymond Pettibon-like comics and surreal scenes of human and nonhuman intermingling. Watch Shawkat host a series of artist interviews for MOCAtv and revel in her endearingly awkward giggle.
Yes, Sly is a painter. Real Love: Paintings 1975-2015, his recent retrospective at the Galerie Contemporaine du Musée de Nice, spanned four decades and charted the film actor's development as an artist from figurative works to large abstract canvases. Stallone's paintings are expressionistic, full of bright colors, heavy brushstrokes, fellow celebrities and recurring images of clocks. No word yet on an American museum retrospective. But like Rocky and Apollo Creed, I believe “America is the land of opportunity.”
The list goes on...
Dennis Hopper was an accomplished photographer. Mark Mothersbaugh returned to his visual roots with a solo museum exhibition. Director Gus Van Sant paints. Pierce Brosnan, Viggo Mortensen and Johnny Depp dabble in oils. Lucy Liu has some pretty interesting work and a really nice website. And Moby takes pictures of his concert crowds.
Other suggestions for artists leaping off the magazine racks? Leave 'em in the comments.