James Franco's lubed-up riff on Renaissance art is an embarrassment
Source:the guardian Author:James Franco Date: 2016-10-26 Size:
A new video by “artist” James Franco purports to interpret and modernise the Renaissance art of the Della Robbia family……

A new video by “artist” James Franco purports to interpret and modernise the Renaissance art of the Della Robbia family, by pouring transparent gel over models’ understandably grimacing faces. It is not just worthless in itself, but exposes the bankruptcy of the 21st-century cliche that you can set the art of today confidently beside the art of the past in a way that somehow liberates it from the dust of museums.

Sotheby’s commissioned Franco, an actor who has convinced himself he is a great artist, to create his Della Robbia video to promote – sorry, “respond” to – its New York exhibition Glazed: The Legacy of The Della Robbia.

Franco takes the idea that contemporary artists have something important, or at least cool, to say about the Renaissance, and trashes it. His video is desperate – a ludicrously overstrained attempt to sexualise and sensationalise something he obviously does not find at all interesting in its own right. As slimy wet cold stuff pours over flesh, Franco begs us to see the glamour of glazed ceramics. But in reality it is far easier for most people to see the merit of the Della Robbia dynasty than it is to comprehend the value of cheap performance art with lashings of erotic gel.


Slicked up … a scene from James Franco’s video work. Photograph: James Franco/Sotheby’s

The Della Robbia style is charming, colourful and accessible. This talented family were the popular artists of 15th-century Florence. They made art to delight the innocent eye. While other Florentine artists were revolutionising painting and sculpture, they hit on a lovely method of covering terracotta with coloured glazes and stuck to it to churn out bright and breezy reliefs of the Nativity, decorative crests and garlands and fruits. Perhaps their most sublime creations are Andrea della Robbia’s swaddled babies flying in blue roundels on the front of the Hospital of the Innocents in Florence. This family’s art is both pure and pretty, full of life and humanity. Does anyone need to see models coated in slime to recognise its appeal?

Yet it’s unfair to blame Franco alone for his pointless intervention. Sotheby’s commissioned it, along with a monochrome poster that says GLAZED in a chic modern way. It looks as if they are anxious that art collectors don’t get the point of art from 500 years ago unless it is slicked up and made “new”.


Wreathed in shame... another still from Franco’s video. Photograph: James Franco/Sotheby’s

This is just another of today’s often glib and frankly silly attempts to sex up art history. Even London’s National Gallery succumbed to the same insecurity when it got Jamie xx and other cool names to create “soundscapes” for its paintings. The Royal Academy felt it needed Jenny Saville to spice up Rubens, Versailles has brought in contemporary artists from Jeff Koons to Anish Kapoor to enliven this monument to French classicism, and you’ll be lucky to visit Pompeii without seeing some truly awful modern art among the ancient wonders.

Perhaps even more clearly than the Della Robbia, the case of Pompeii illustrates the redundancy of a lot of contemporary “interventions” in history. Pompeii’s frescoes and frozen bodies fascinate visitors. Who needs modern art to make this place more interesting?

Curators and the press often assume that people are idiots. In reality, great art finds its own audience, and bad art just gets in the way. And a lot of art today is bad, not because there are no talented artists around, but because in its drive for novelty, the art world has abolished quality control. Allowing James Franco to desecrate the Renaissance reveals how pathetic we look beside the cultural heights of history.

[Editor] 孙涵

    Artintern