Can Fame Buy Your Way into the Art World?

The art world is absolutely drunk on star fucking” says the art critic and professor Mark Van Proyen in an interview with Broke-ass Stuart. He might not be wrong on that.

From the fourth of April till fourth of September the Saatchi Gallery shows Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones. Rather than question what seems to be yet another classic-Saatchi-PR-stunt, or comment on the collection of artworks by a vast range of artists, designers and writers such as Andy Warhol, Alexander McQueen and Martin Scorsese, it’s the names of the people behind the exhibiton that stresses a question; When did the line between fame and art disappear?

It’s quite ironic to picture the macho Rocky and James Bond painting or a Charlie’s Angel making complex calligraphy. This isn’t the case if one can separate fictional characters from real life actors.  However, it’s the same irony and issue that celebrity artists are facing; Are people able to divide them from their art and is the art strong enough by itself if divided from the celebrity?

Abigail Yentis, an art student and painter, thinks that anyone can call themselves an artist but by doing so one is obligated to ’prove’ themselves worthy of it.

Actor Pierce Brosnan, known as Bond, exhibit and sell his art to raise money for charities. Sylvester Stallone, known as Rocky, has his paintings hanging in galleries next to works by Picasso and Botero. The Charlie’s angels actor Lucy Liu who, unlike her fellow celebrities, is praised for her artistic talent and contribution to Asian art.

What arguably used to be an exclusive art world of prestige and talent, has become a playground for celebrities. Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, commonly known for mocking Andy Warhol’s soup cans for lacking artistic intent, is one of the many musicians and actors that define themselves as artists today.

The London based artist Luc Waring expressed, I personally think the actor James Franco’s artwork is really fucking good and Bob Dylan’s is fantastic”. He argues that being an artist is knowing the philosophy of art. If someone’s a good actor or a musicians they often have the right philosophy and can transcend that in life, paintings and in anything they do”.

The Fine Art Society’s art connoisseur Rowena Morgan-Cox explain that quality is more import than a name. The Fine Art Society approach all artists in the same way and expect the same amount of talent from everyone. If offered to exhibit the work of a celebrity artist, who embodies the quality and talent we look for in every artist, we would.”

At a young age of 22 Waring and his art, what he calls ’counter-propaganda, have been widely noted around London and helped him establish himself within the Fine Art world.  At his first major Fine Art show at The Courtauld Gallery his work hung alongside works by Monet, Van Gogh and Gauguin.

He owes his success to hard work, an education at an art school, peoples’ genuine fascination of his work and the talents he picked up by collaborating with fellow artists such as the Danish Kristian Hornsleth street artist Inkie, and graffiti artist Maximilian Wiedemann.

He explains that painting can be quite esoteric one can reach a different audience than the norm by being famous.  He has experimented with film, video and music to get his sociopolitical art to reach the masses, but through a format that he felt comfortable with.

He argues that fame is useful within art. In terms of art, any publicity is good publicity as reaching people is the ultimate goal for an artist: whether for political, spiritual or economical motives.  Art is always subjective, so good and bad publicity isn’t so relevant,” said Waring.

Whether for talent or publicity, there are some galleries in London that shows art produced and promoted by celebrities. James Franco has had his work shown at Tate Modern, Pace Gallery and Siegfried Contemporary. Scream Gallery launched by Jamie Wood, son of The Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, the exhibit consist of work from many musical legends including Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain and as well as his father’s work.  Now, the Exhibitionism show takes over the entire two floors and nine thematic galleries of the Saatchi gallery.

The king of multi-talents-and-identities, John Waters (film director, screenwriter, author, actor, comedian, journalist, visual artist, and art collector), once used an expression “the curse of fame”. It’s still debatable to what degree the previous listed celebrities have generated a reputation as artists.

The current situation in the art world today is a battle between contradicting interest. Celebrity artists seeks to prove their worthiness of belonging to the artist category. Aspiring artists and students seek recognition, often connected to fame. While some gallery owners prove their close links to PR, others look for authenticity and talent of an artist.


Check out:

LUC WARING / Not For Sale

Directed by Matthew Hoult

A short film giving a glimpse into the world of Luc Waring ahead of his ‘Not For Sale’ London Exhibition.

Shot on RED in London by RAWR and finished by POST in under 24 hours.

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