Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  
Celebrity Art 4/30/99
by Baird Jones
  Val Kilmer will do a cameo as Abstract Expressionist painter Willem de Kooning in the indie biopic of legendary abstract painter Jackson Pollock, with Ed Harris as the spatterman and Marcia Gay Harden (Flubber, Meet Joe Black) as his artist wife Lee Krasner. John Heard (Snake Eyes, The Client) plays Pollock pal Tony Smith and neo-Pop painter Kenny Scharf is William Baziotes. Also in the all-star cast is Bud Cort, Amy Madigan, Sada Thompson and Jeffrey Tambor. The period film is Oscar-nominated Harris' directorial debut. It began shooting this week in New York, with a bar near Prospect Park standing in for the famous Cedar Tavern. Producer is art collector and Basquiat backer Peter Brant. Barbara Turner and Susan Emshwiller adapted the script from the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.

British bad boy Damien Hirst gets his name in the British papers. The Telegraph notes that his contribution to a collaborative, artist-made golf course in Devon has stolen the show. "He's designed a golf hole in the shape of an upturned pair of buttocks," says a spokesman. As for the London Times, the paper says that Hirst has taken to prancing around naked in London's Soho district. "When Damien has had a few drinks," says a local barman, "he runs in here and says, 'I'm going to take my clothes off.' He then parades around stark naked, shouting 'what do you think of my body?' I've seen it many times."

Dennis Hopper exhibiting his work at the Metropolitan Museum, could it be true? Yes indeed, and the maniacal actor is in the company of Jasper Johns, Francesco Clemente, Roy Lichtenstein and similar art stars. The exhibition features a special portfolio of prints dedicated to the late Met curator Henry Geldzahler. The series of lithographs includes trademark Pop works by Johns, Lichtenstein, David Hockney and James Rosenquist, portraits of Henry by David Salle and Clemente, and an abstraction by Ellsworth Kelly. Hopper's contribution, Out of the '60s, a spirited group portrait of Andy Warhol, Geldzahler and Hockney, is an interesting production. Signed and dated 1963, the print is apparently a photo done on litho paper that has been backdated to the year of the original snapshot. One also wonders whether this is the first photo-litho that Hopper has produced and if so could it be the forerunner of future experiments with the process?

Approximately 70 oil paintings made by Paul McCartney of his mates -- David Bowie, John Lennon and Andy Warhol, among them -- are in the former Beatle's first-ever art exhibition, opening May 1 in the Kunstforum Lÿz in Siegen, near Cologne. His paintings are described as abstract expressionist and are said to be influenced by his late friend Willem de Kooning. McCartney applies paint directly from the tube, or so thinly as to be translucent, according to reports in the British press. Other works slated for the show include Bowie Spewing and two portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen Getting a Joke and The Queen After Her First Cigarette, and paintings of Paul's late wife Linda McCartney, who died of cancer last year. McCartney said he took up painting after his 40th birthday in 1982. The gallery plans to charge a £3 entry fee.

The Barrow Theater Group in New York recently raised a tidy sum towards the production of a Jeff Daniels-scripted play, Thy Kingdom's Coming, by organizing a celebrity drawing auction at the Princeton Club. Though the Apr. 26 event was overflowing with well-heeled collectors, the results showed just how unpredictable the market for celebrity art can be.

Several works sold for well under their presale estimates. A Lauren Bacall smeared drawing of a tulip was valued at $325 but sold for only $185. Tony Randall's sketch of three wheelbarrows went for $120, well under its $300 valuation. A picture of three flying fruits over a woman in a frilly dress by Joan Baez had a $600 estimate but went for $220, bought by a member of the Barrow group. Drawings by Kitty Carlisle Hart, Tony Danza and Katie Couric also sold for well below expectations, with Danza's drawing garnering only $50. Judd Hirsch's excellent, detailed self-portrait went for only $100, as did Kevin Spacey's top-notch portrait of Eugene O'Neill.

By contrast, Rosie O'Donnell's hastily drawn rendition of four bidders at auction was only expected to draw a bid of $75 but ended up going for $310. Perhaps reflecting his success in Death of a Salesman, Brian Dennehy's sketch of two suitcases pulled in $500 over a modest $60 estimate. Madeleine Kahn's multi -colored drawing of a fairy pulled in $200 with only a $75 estimate.

In line with expectations, Al Pacino's portrait of Charlie Chaplin went for $325. A Bill Cosby scribble went for $230, tennis ace Pete Sampras' drawing of a car went for $450 and a Paul Newman drawing of an old man went for $425. Woody Allen's portrait of a small bird on a limb went for $425 -- could this sketch have been a harbinger of the recent announcement of his new child with Soon Yi? A Judy Dench self-portrait in Elizabethan gown went for $500. All told, the event raised $25,210!

For so many years in the '80s, fed-up talk-show watchers wanted to knock Morton Downey Jr.'s teeth in, but it looks like he's beat them to the punch. Downey just had his front five teeth and bottom front four teeth pulled to play a "backwoods Gabby Hayes type" in the indie Gold Rush thriller The Californians, which is based on a true-life miner story written by Star Wars superstar Liam Neeson. Downey told me, "My dentist tried to talk me out of going to such an extreme just to get in character for a role. He kept asking me, 'Isn 't there some other way?' I didn't lose the teeth for the appearance. I need the gap in my teeth for the impact on my speech, for the sound quality and for its psychological mood -- I just did not feel old enough. Maybe I was inspired to get my teeth pulled because I just finished a movie directed by Chris Coppola, called Palmer's Pickup (costarring Patricia Arquette and Harry Connick Jr.) where I play a talkshow host who is actually God. Chris' brother Nic Cage had teeth pulled without anesthetic for one role. But I used novocaine and with all the pain I've been through because of losing a lung to cancer, I found losing the teeth was nothing even when the pain killer wore off." The 64-year-old former talk-show host is down a bunch of teeth and one lung, but he may be eyeing still another appendage for excision soon -- an ear. "There has been some talk about my playing painter Mark Kostabi in a movie and I think I would like to present him genius-twitched in a Vincent van Gogh way." Downey admits to being a part-time figurative painter whose favorite colors are "red, yellow and magenta."

Irish-born Ian Gibson's new book, Lorca-Dali, the Love That Could Not Be tells that Spanish Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí and poet Federico García Lorca may have had one of the greatest love affairs of the century. The book also states that Dali´s relationship with his wife Gala was a sham. The author claims that Gala had many lovers before and after she married the painter. He goes on to say that Dalí was a closet homosexual. Dalí told the author that Lorca was in love with him but that their relationship was never consummated because of Dalí´s sexual confusion.

The New Museum's annual benefit auction culminating on May 2 offers an interesting selection of photography. John Waters' 7x 5 in. black and white photograph of the message "Please God Help Me" (1998) carries a minimum bid of a modest $200, less than half the cheapest deal one can find at his gallery, American Fine Arts on Wooster Street in SoHo. Diane Arbus' gelatin silver print (20/75, 1963, 20"x16") of a topless waitress wearing an apron at a nudist camp has been donated by "Bob" Miller of the Robert Miller Gallery and has an estimate of $4,000, while a William Wegman small Polaroid Pet Portrait Sitting is estimated at $10,000. A cluster of bidders were examining the donation of performance artist Ben Kinmont, who had written on the New Museum's wall his offer to visit the home of a bidder, wash their dishes and then cosign the kitchen wall, all for only $1,000.

At least there is one person who wants Fidel Castro to stay alive. At the opening for Sandro Chia's new paintings at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in SoHo, Jay McInerney told me, "I am going to place much of my next novel in Cuba. I went down there for a few weeks and I will go back again soon to do more research for the book. The lead girl in the book will be Cuban. I want to capture that atmosphere where everything is frozen in the past, the old cars, the architecture, the clothing, all stuck in the '50s because of Castro. No 007 stuff, or Old Man and the Sea. But if Castro dies that will change everything. I hope he doesn't die. If he does, the place will turn into Disneyland overnight and I'll have to incorporate that into my novel too. But I want it to be a romance. Cuba is as romantic as anywhere on earth, even just as romantic as Venice, because of the way time has been frozen there."

Los Angeles entrepreneur Eli Broad is planning to build an oceanfront house designed by Getty Center architect Richard Meier on two adjoining parcels in Malibu. One of the properties was owned by Freddy DeMann, Madonna's former manager. Broad paid $2.5 million for the parcel, which has 45 feet of beach frontage and includes a three-bedroom 3,000-square-foot house built in 1952. The second property has 55 feet of beach frontage and was sold for about $2.6 million. It has an 1,800-square-foot house built in 1955. Broad, 65, co-founded Kaufman & Broad Home Corp. and founded the L.A.-based retirement savings firm SunAmerica, which he sold this year for $18.3 billion.

British portrait painter Andrew Festing, who has just completed a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II commissioned by the Royal Hospital Chelsea, complained to the Sunday Telegraph that the Queen would not stop fidgeting. "I felt like saying, 'Madam, could you please keep still'," said Festing. The Queen's secretary took advantage of the gap in Her Majesty's otherwise crammed schedule to conduct a business meeting, meaning that the Queen involuntarily pulled faces and moved her hands throughout the sittings. It did, however, relieve Festing of the need to entertain Her Majesty. "It meant that I could get on with the picture without having to make conversation," he said. The eight-foot-tall painting, which will be on view to the public at the Mall Galleries in London from May 6, shows the Queen looking out of a window and standing in front of Van Dyck's portrait of King Charles I. The Royal Household was so impressed by Festing's portrait that it commissioned another massive group portrait of the Queen surrounded by her friends and family, which promises to be the biggest painting in the royal collection.

Congrats to photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who recently won a Grammy Award in the long form music video category for his film Lou Reed Rock and Roll Heart, which he directed.

BAIRD JONES can be reached at