Celebrities as Artists: a Waste of Paint?

The newest trend to hit New York City is not a new silhouette from Alexander Wang but the surge of celebrities attempting to have serious art shows.  These celebrities are not lifelong traditional fine artists, they are musicians and actors, like, Bob Dylan, Shia LaBeouf and James Franco. The allure of becoming a fine artist is a well subscribed archetype for the attention-hungry but what makes this trend particular aggravating to the art world is that these shows don’t seem to showcase genuine talent, but instead, a desire from these celebrities to garner even more attention from the public. Many have even spoken out that the ‘work’ that the celebrities do show is a thinly veiled rip off from other well-known artists.

Actor, Shia LaBeouf, best known for his thought provoking work in Transformers and Even Stevens, recently held an installation in Los Angeles, titled, #IAMSORRY. Hopefully, the title is meant to extend an apology to Serbian performance artist, Marina Abramović. His 2014 installation is suspiciously similar to Abramović’s 2010 Museum of Modern Art show, The Artist is Present. Both shows include a performance piece where the artist sits across from individuals and stares silently at them. Although, in, #IAMSORRY, LaBoeuf sits silently with a bag over his head. Innovation at its finest.

James Franco is also dipping his toes into the art world with his new show, New Film Stills, at the legendary Pace Gallery. His gallery opening was chic event with fashion photographers snapping away photos of Franco with other bigwigs in the art world. Pace Gallery is one of the finest art galleries in New York, representing artists, Kiki Smith, Donald Judd, David Hockney and Willem de Kooning. The Spiderman star chose to recreate the Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills using himself. That’s basically where the idea behind the work ends. Cindy Sherman laments, “I don’t know that I can say it’s art, but I think it’s weirder that Pace would show them than that he would make them”. The work pretends to dig into the rich topics of gender roles and the male gaze but makes no deep commentary on the subject nor does the work offer a different viewpoint on those topics. It seems that the movie star was educated enough to know who Cindy Sherman was but was not capable enough to communicate a deeper emotion or viewpoint of her work and subjects. How disappointing from a supposed PhD candidate at Yale University. His work will be on display at Pace Gallery till May 3rd.

So, what’s the big gripe with celebrities making art? They have a right to express themselves as much anyone else, right? Yes, they do. The issue is that they are trying to perform at a level that must be earned, not handed over because they have been successful in other fields.  Personally, I believe the strong backlash is the result of a long brewing resentment in the art world after Bob Dylan’s universally panned show at Gagosian Gallery in 2012 and Lady Gaga’s feeble 2013 Artpop album. I appreciate the interest of actors and musicians in fine art but it seems that they want to start at the top when their work lacks the cultivated artistic vision and execution that comes with practice. Celebrities should feel encouraged to explore other artistic mediums but they should not step over those who have worked so hard to make a name for themselves in the art world without the help of fame. The art gallery world is flawed and life is rarely fair, but for now, let’s leave the art world to those who are passionate about creating work.

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