AO News Summary – Contemporary Art defines the 2011 Oscar Ceremonies

Banksy, A clip from Exit Through the Gift Shop (via The New York Times)

The Oscars tonight are intrinsically linked to the contemporary art market, with new players like Banksy wreaking havoc on the academy while a charismatic actor/emerging artist  James Franco hosts the ceremony. As the show draws ever-closer, uncertainty blankets the unfolding succession of events.  In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, where his film Exit Through the Gift Shop has been nominated for Best Documentary alongside Vik Muniz, Banksy’s graffiiti has been hotly debated as it appeared throughout the Los Angeles area. The multitude of works further underscores the question of his actual identity, especially as an Oscar nominee.  Banksy is famous for being faceless; his anonymity fuels the curiosity and  hype surrounding his street art.  His work has been decried as vandalism, lauded as satirical genius, and sold at Urban Outfitters in the form of his book, Wall and Piece.
Gus Van Sant, James Franco, and Larry Gagosian at this weekend’s opening (via the Billy Farrell Agency)

more images and story after the jump…



Pre-Oscar hype escalates as Banksy’s work continues to appear.

If the film wins, the reclusive artist’s co-producer Jaimie D’Cruz is rumored to be publicly accepting the award. The chance that Banksy himself would appear on stage in costume was considered “undignified” by the Academy.  “If Banksy isn’t comfortable showing his face on the Kodak stage,” Academy president Steve Pond told TheWrap, “then the Academy isn’t comfortable having him on that stage.”

Banksy - A child holding a machine guy, using crayons for ammunition - Oscars
Vandalized: Banksy, A child holding a machine guy, using crayons for ammunition (via Melrose & Fairfax)

Predictably, the appearance of Banksy’s latest works was rapidly followed by controversy. A child holding a machine guy, using crayons for ammunition has been repeatedly defaced, and property management at the Urban Outfitters moved to have the work painted over on the store’s parking lot wall. Charlie Brown Fire Starter has been boarded up, and Mickey Mouse Billboard has been taken down.


Banksy, Mickey Mouse Billboard, which has since been taken down (via The Daily Mail)

The timeliness of Banksy’s Oscar nomination and the creation of new works is in cohesion with previous self-promotion. When Exit Through the Gift Shop was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, his works appeared in Park City, Utah, and in Los Angeles following the film’s first release.

Banksy - Mr. Brainwash or Banksy storming the Oscars on La Brea - Oscars
Banksy, Mr. Brainwash or Banksy storming the Oscars (via The Huffington Post)

In distinct contrast to the tension surrounding Banksy’s graffiti, James Franco exudes charm and commercial popularity while seamlessly crafting himself as both Hollywood A-Lister and art world aficionado. This weekend his collaboration with Gus Van Sant, “Unfinished,” debuted at the Beverly Hills Gagosian Gallery, and will be on view through April 9th. The opening of “Unfinished” was attended by the writer Bret Easton Ellis, actor Adrien Brody, and Academy Award Winner Robert Duvall — a precursor to the young Hollywood set Franco will work with tonight.

Franco has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, and is currently studying Digital Media at Rhode Island School of Design. In the current exhibition, Franco worked on Gus Van Sant’s film My Own Private River, based on previously unused scenes from the 1991 film My Own Private Idaho featuring deceased actor River Phoenix. Before showing with Gagosian, Franco exhibited elsewhere in Los Angeles, New York, and Berlin.  Franco’s art is often infused with Hollywood references. At the showcase of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Franco worked with an episode of General Hospital as performance art.  Tonight’s Oscar ceremony pays tribute to the contemporary art overlap with Hollywood and celebrity, from the charm and collaborative energy of James Franco to the aggressive sensationalism that fuels Banksy’s success. Whether or not the ceremony conspicuously refers to the art market, the tacit presence of underlying art experience defines this year’s Oscar showcase.

– A. Bregman

Related Links:
Banksy goes to Hollywood [The Independent]
What people are saying about Banksy [Melrose & Fairfax]
Urban Outfitters Responds to Cries They’re Taking Banksy Down [the Laist]
Academy Members Are No Fun, Refuse to Let Banksy Show Up in Disguise [indieWire]
James Franco / Gus Van Sant – Unfinished [Gagosian Gallery]
His Own Private Idaho [Style.com]
James Franco, Gus Van Sant exhibition coming this week to Gagosian Gallery [LAtimes]