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Time for a museum extravaganza of celebrity art?

July 12, 2010 | 11:19 am

Phyllis Diller 2 file photo Recession got you down? The oil-volcano making you blue? Sick of the blatant racism seeping into our national political discourse?

Help is at hand. With the 40-year retrospective of Dennis Hopper's art finally opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A., and a joint Steven Spielberg/George Lucas exhibition underway at Washington's Smithsonian American Art Museum, we now have coast-to-coast Hollywood celebrity art museum shows to distract our battered spirits.

The question is: Which major art museum will be the first to go all the way out on a precarious limb and mount a full-scale celebrity survey-palooza?

If you think not enough material is available, think again. Tons of celebrities paint, sculpt, draw and snap shutters. You can find about 100 famous candidates here -- including drawings and paintings by the brilliant stand-up comedy legend, Phyllis Diller.

And I've even got an idea for a guest curator: Arianna Huffington. Her 1989 trash-wallow biography of Picasso was made into a Hollywood potboiler starring Anthony Hopkins.

Some of this stuff is seriously worth looking at too: Hopper's 1960s photographs, say, or Martin Mull's poignant paintings of suburban alienation and Herb Alpert's colossal sculptural monoliths. The rest? Well, maybe we'll only know for sure when a courageous art museum steps up to the plate and gives us a chance for deep engagement.

Or, on second thought, maybe not...

-- Christopher Knight

Follow me @twitter.com/KnightLAT

Photo: Phyllis Diller; Credit: Los Angeles Times file photo

Comments () | Archives (4)

Right on!

I think your being unfair to Norman Rockwell to grossly stretch a point. I don’t see how backing a Rockwell show makes Lucas and Spielberg celebrity artists. I can’t imagine anyone going to the show because they own the paintings.

Norman Rockwell and his paintings are not the subject of the Smithsonian show.

If they were, the museum would have drawn on dozens of private and public collections, including (and especially) the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, for loans. But it didn't; it borrowed only from a pair of private collections. The subject of the show is the Rockwell art that two celebrities bought.

The show isn't even a credible analysis of the influence of Rockwell's art on two famous and successful filmmakers, since those celebrities do not own a substantial portion of the Rockwell art that as been important to their film-making. That would be a show worth doing; it is disappointing that the Smithsonian did not bother.

Instead, the museum opted for a celebrity exhibition.

No. Art should not wear platform shoes.


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