Articles

Celebrities Failing at Art

by Allison Meier on July 11, 2013

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With fame and fortune you can do just about anything, but maybe you shouldn’t. Yet that hasn’t stopped celebrities from trying their  hands at contemporary art, as evidenced by the performance art escapades of Jay-Z this week. But he’s hardly the first, and not even the worst. Below are a few more of celebrities failing at art.

Red Skelton

Red Skelton parasailing, and a painting of a clown inspired by the adventure (via redskelton.com)

Red Skelton parasailing, and a “whimsical piece” of a clown inspired by the adventure (via redskelton.com)

His art: Red Skelton started his comedy career as a circus clown, and later turned that early stage of his profession into some creepy clown paintings, sort of like you might find haunting the back of a Salvation Army in splintered frames. Apparently, he was inspired by seeing “a bunch of blotches” in a painting that cost thousands of dollars (presumably some work of abstraction), and he decided to go out on his own and do work that costs in the tens of thousands, all with clowns and no blotches to be found.

Artist statement:

“Clowns were Red Skelton’s favorite subject. He created many different clowns, and occasionally used other celebrities as his subjects.” (via redskelton.com)

Adolf Hitler

Art by Hitler (via Wikimedia)

Art by Hitler (via Wikimedia)

His art: Before he went on his ascent to brutal power in Germany, Adolf Hitler tried to be an artist. Unfortunately perhaps for history, he was not a success. He twice failed to be accepted to the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, likely due to the bland, impersonal nature of his art.

Artist statement:

From “Paintings by Adolf Hitler” in LIFE magazine, ”As usual, no human figures appeared in his work.”

Anthony Hopkins

Elephant painted by Anthony Hopkins (via the Guardian, copyright Sir Anthony Hopkins)

Elephant painted by Anthony Hopkins (via the Guardian, copyright Sir Anthony Hopkins)

His art: Sir Anthony Hopkins had his first exhibition of abstract paintings back in 2010 in London, although the landscapes and curious creatures like this elephant often come off as sinister as his characters.

His statement:

“When I paint, I just paint freely without anxiety regarding outside opinions as criticisms. I do it for sheer pleasure. It’s done wonders for my subconscious – I dream now in colours.” (via the Telegraph)

Jane Seymour

Art by Jane Seymour (via janeseymourart.com)

Art by Jane Seymour (via janeseymourart.com)

Her art: The former Bond girl Jane Seymour’s painting centers on landscapes of odd perspectives and shaky Impressionist-influenced paintings, although one of these works apparently inspired a jewelry line for Kay Jewelers with a symbolically open heart.

Her statement:

“Over the past eighteen years she has created an intimate world of delicate watercolors, colorful vibrant oil paintings, pastels and bronze sculptures.”

(via janeseymourart.com)

Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone Art (courtesy ArtFCity)

Sylvester Stallone Art (courtesy ArtFCity)

His art: Sylvester Stallone can’t be blamed for using too little paint, but that’s about all that you might politely be able to say about his paintings. The scrawled works look like rambling experiments, but somehow made it to a misguided display at Art Basel Miami Beach.

Artist statement:

“Stallone’s pictures are as action-packed as his movies: colorful, expressive and abstract. The actor uses an expressionistic style to realise his art in a spontaneous way.” (via sylvesterstallone.com)

Sasha Grey

Sasha Grey at EXXXOTICA 2008 (photograph by Shawn Perez/Flickr user)

Sasha Grey at EXXXOTICA 2008 (photograph by Shawn Perez/Flickr user)

Her art: Sasha Grey has switched from porn to visual art, but keeping her work in photography and performance art still pretty salacious. This has included a video portrait by none other than Richard Phillips, filmed at the modernist John Lautner Chemosphere House for architecturally pretentious effect, although it’s more fashiony music video than anything groundbreaking, despite what the below artist statement may suggest.

Artist statement, from artist Richard Phillips:

“For my film portrait of Sasha Grey, I wanted to focus on her expressive and psychological transformation into a cinematic actor, separate from the cues that have associated Sasha with her previous career as a performance artist working within the adult film world.” (via Huffington Post)

Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr and his art (via ringostarrart.com)

Ringo Starr and his art (via ringostarrart.com)

Ringo Starr’s art is based in MS Paint, and is all broad, shaky mouse-driven lines and giant paint bucket fills of color. To give him credit, he does donate all the proceeds of his art to charity and is pretty up front about it being MS Paint amateurism, so you can’t hate on the guy too much.

His statement:

“Most of the titles for my pieces arrived because on computer you have to call them something, so I have. The easy way to look at it is, if it has a hat on — it will probably be called Hat Man.” (via ringostarrart.com)

George W. Bush

Art by George W. Bush (via Gawker)

Art by George W. Bush (via Gawker)

His art: Earlier this year it emerged that the former US President George W. Bush had turned his new freetime to painting, with some surreal bathtub scenes and lots of dogs.

Artist statement:

From the Telegraph‘s Mark Hudson: “George W Bush’s first forays into painting have a naive vigour and unintentionally childlike quality.” 

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's drawing of Charlie Chaplin (via mjjcollectors.com)

Michael Jackson’s drawing of Charlie Chaplin (via mjjcollectors.com)

His art: The King of Pop reportedly used a “top-secret Santa Monica airport hanger” for both a place to store his art collection and create his own work.  As you might predict, the drawings, that include idols like Charlie Chaplin, designs for a monument to himself, and pieces of furniture with faces, are kind of weird.

Artist statement: From Jackson’s “art mentor” Brett-Livingstone Strong in a story in LA Weekly:

“He loved chairs. [...] He thought chairs were the thrones of most men, women and children, where they made their decisions for their daily activity. He was inspired by chairs. Rather than just do a portrait of the monkey, he put it in the chair.”

Macaulay Culkin

Work by Michael Jackson and Macaulay Culkin (photograph by Ross McLain/Flickr user)

Work by Michael Jackson and Macaulay Culkin (photograph by Ross McLain/Flickr user)

His art: Macaulay Culkin, who has apparently had showings alongside Michael Jackson, has launched his career into art full of weird scenes involving game shows, television figures, and other pop culture in a really trippy mess of paint. It’s all part of something called the 3MB collective operated out of his multimillion dollar apartment-turned-studio.

Artist statement:

“We use a lot of iconography from our youths and stuff like that: ‘The Masters of the Universe,’ or Korn, or whatever… The sillier and the funner, the better.”

(via Yahoo)

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga (photograph by Jazmin Million/Flickr user)

Lady Gaga (photograph by Jazmin Million/Flickr user)

Her art: It’s hard to argue that Lady Gaga isn’t a skilled marketer/performer and the spectacles she creates definitely have a hyper visual level for our 21st century weary eyes, but does it warrant these kinds of statements…

Artist statement, via Slate:

“Lady Gaga is something of an anomaly: a pretentious pop starlet. To hear her tell it, she isn’t the anonymous hookup facilitator you might assume from her robotically decadent techno hits but, rather, a savvy media manipulator engaged in an elaborate, Warholian pop-art project.”

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  • Devin KKenny

    Totally. But on the flip-side, you’ve got Dennis Hopper (R.I.P.).
    And… I think Jim Carrey’s heart is in the right place, despite the…bad paintings.

  • Ka ϟ Mi
  • Dain Q. Gore

    Some others:,

    Tony Bennett

    Tony Curtis

    Anthony Quinn

    For some reason, all Tonys.

  • Lady Ann

    I believe anyone can express themselves through art. Isn’t that the point, self-expression? Does art have to have commercial value to be legit’? “Fail” is a little harsh. (Hitler…really? Isn’t that an inappropriate example of anything except genocidal maniac? He should be removed from everyone’s lexicon.)

  • Brian Fernandes-Halloran

    whao whao, I’d hang a GW in a heartbeat.

  • http://www.pysar-art.com/ Yuri

    art is for everybody who has to say something!

  • holls1211

    What about Bob Dylan!!!

  • Jope

    I find it so sad that you all feel content to mock people sooo much. Art is free and to mock anyone for trying to produce work is quite pathetic. Mmm, seems like that book burning from a certain vial party many years back?

    Some of the most stunning items I have seen have been by a homeless man in Casablanca and if you like something then thats OK. I say well done to all of these (bar Hitler) for trying to do something out of their comfort zone.

    Some of the worst items I have seen have been by most (most) people who graduate from the school of pretention. That said, both of those examples are great as they have still produced something for people to see.

    I would LOVE to see the day that any of you decide to get on stage in front of 100, 000 people and this happens:

    1. You finish your set and walk over to the wings
    2. All the people do as they great you is mock you and say you are not welcome (which is what you are all saying)
    3. AT THAT MOMENT…How do you feel?

    (sad thing is Jay Z would respect you for it)

    Jay Z has done more for art than most. For example, this alone has probably opened up the world of performing art to an extra million. And maybe, just maybe of that million a person may come to the fore that will change the world. Doubtful but possible. Now isn’t that art? Oh, and I am not a fan of his music but I respect what he has achieved with it.

    And all this from a website that when it asks you to sign in it needs your personal data. Good god, what a sad world. On one side, faux liberal notions, on others, data collecting businessman.

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      You mean the Disqus sign in? Perhaps you should research something before you speak, because that is their sign in form, which helps us prevent trolls, spam, and other things. Considering you’re a marketer, perhaps you should have known that, no?

      There are many people Hyperallergic celebrates, celebrity and otherwise, but we also have no problem pointing out when people fail. That is the nature a criticism and discussion … opinions.

      Also, your book burning comparison is bizarre, which tells me you’re reacting emotionally. So, perhaps something thing conversation is going nowhere.

      • thom thomy

        Who is “we”.

    • Dain Q. Gore

      “I would LOVE to see the day that any of you decide to get on stage in front of 100, 000 people and this happens:

      1. You finish your set and walk over to the wings
      2. All the people do as they great you is mock you and say you are not welcome (which is what you are all saying)
      3. AT THAT MOMENT…How do you feel?”

      You pretty much just described Social Media in general, but more specifically, the comments section of most websites.

  • Darian

    we love to put people in these boxes. and if they EVER produce actions that step outside of that box, and low and behold, possibly into our realm of expertise, we are offended. we go up in arms when people who are not known for visual art, create visual art. i see no point in publishing an article that is basically explaining to people why they should stick to what their initially “good at”, who ever that it up to, so our mental capacities are never shaken. stand in a corner, do the one thing you’re good at, and leave those who are expanding their knowledge, skills, passions and net worth every day…to do just that.

  • blackops23

    what about Don Van Vliet??? Clearly, his music was more important, as it did break ground; but his paintings were a nice way for him to exit the musical stage. Not exactly a fail… but not exactly a success.

    • Jeffrey

      Being that he showed with one of the most respected galleries for all his art career, i’d call it one hell of a success.

  • Mark H

    The former president’s paintings are only out because someone else wanted them there. Unlike Stallone or Red Skelton, he hasn’t been trying to sell or exhibit them. The artist statement given here isn’t one. Bush’s inclusion in this piece is a real stretch.

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