“We’re one family, and all the waters in the world are our global bathtub”. A simple, but nonetheless sweet concept for an artwork. Florentijn Hofman’s giant rubber duck reminded me of the Friendly Floatees incident of 1991, the subject of Donovan Hohn’s book, Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of them.
MoMA Unadulterated is an audio tour of MoMA’s key collection pieces as discussed by a panel of kids between 3-10 years old. Cy Twombly fails to impress (‘all you have to do is try to write your name in a bad way and then scribble all over’) whereas Ed Ruscha’s OOF (1962) rates highly (‘a person can make that sound when he falls on his tushy…OOF!’).
For the following list, I have purposely selected films which creatively refer to and use existing art works. Movies exclusively about artists (e.g. Basquiat or Séraphine) have been omitted. Any major exclusions? Leave a comment for a sequel blogpost in the future.
1. Batman, 1989, Directed by Tim Burton
The Joker (Jack Nicholson) and his cronies launch an attack on Gotham’s Museum of Art, gassing its high society guests. Upon entering, they vandalize paintings by Rembrandt, Renoir, and Degas, whilst the Joker reveals a penchant for Francis Bacon’s work. Tim Burton has a cameo as one of the Joker’s goons. Gentleman! Let’s broaden our minds!
2. Wall Street, 1987, Directed by Oliver Stone
Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) chastises Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) for liquidating Bluestar Airlines where his father works. In retort, Gekko extols the realities of modern capitalism pointing to a painting by Joan Miro (Paysage) as an example. This painting here, I bought it ten years ago for $60,000. I could sell it today for $600000. The illusion has become real, and the more real it becomes, the more desperate they want it. Capitalism at its finest. The film features actual works by artists including Keith Haring, Julian Schnabel, Pablo Picasso, Jim Dine, James Rosenquist and Jean Dubuffet lent by galleries including Pace and Sperone Westwater. There are also cameos by Sotheby’s auctioneer Christopher Burge and the art dealer Richard Feigen.
3. American Psycho, 2000, Directed by Mary Harron
Patrick Bateman’s (Christian Bale) apartment contains works from Robert Longo’s series ‘Men in Cities’, a cowboy ‘re-photograph’ by Richard Prince, and Allan McCollum’s series of framed black paintings, the ‘Surrogate Paintings’. In this early scene, the psychotic Bateman banally describes his morning routine in the manner of a magazine style column filmed vis-à-vis a Calvin Klein advertisement. Longo’s silent, contorted figures, McCollum’s blank black paintings, and Prince’s reappropriations of advertisements are neat articulations of Bateman’s psyche as well as appropriate 1980s scene setting works.
4. Children of Men, 2006, Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Theo Farron (Clive Owen) visits his cousin Nigel (Danny Huston) to obtain vital transit papers. Set in the near future during which humanity has become infertile, Nigel presides over the Ministry of Culture’s ‘Ark of the Arts’ program, preserving works which include Picasso’s Guernica, Michelangelo’s David and a Banksy piece of two kissing policeman. Set at Battersea power station, the large inflatable pig visible throughout the scene is a reference to Pink Floyd’s album Animals. You kill me. 100 years from now, there won’t be one sad fuck to look at any of this. What keeps you going? …I just don’t think about it.
5. Kick Ass, 2010, Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Crime boss Frank D’Amico’s (Mark Strong) blue chip art collection includes two Warhol silkscreens of revolvers, a few Hirst’s, two Rothko’s, Ed Ruscha’s Brave men run in my family and Marc Quinn’s Self, a refrigerated sculpture of Quinn’s head formed with his own blood. Almost all of the works can be spotted during the film’s violent denouement. Could there be an underlying implication here about wealthy art collectors? Many of the works used in the film belong to Vaughn and his wife Claudia Schiffer.
6. Mad Men, Season 2 Episode 7, Directed by Andrew Bernstein
Mad Men warrants inclusion here since the show generates so much discussion over the art and literature that it features. In the second season, Bertrand Cooper (Robert Morse) purchases a Mark Rothko painting and several of the characters sneak into his office to take a peak at it. Riffing on the common assessment that Rothko’s work is something to be experienced and contemplated, the painting becomes an ironic device for mirroring and revealing the personalities of the characters.
… And one that fails: Titanic, 1997, Directed by James Cameron
Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) boards the Titanic with a number of paintings including Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a water lilies painting by Claude Monet, and a Degas. Not only were none of these paintings on the Titanic, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, arguably the world’s most famous modernist painting, is on display to this day at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. The notion that some artworks, much like the film’s fictional diamond, were lost forever on the ship is intriguing, but why the film crew decided to illustrate this with one of the world’s most famous paintings is far more perplexing. In May, The Art Newspaper reported that the Artists Rights Society filed a compensation claim for the use of the painting’s image in the film.