James Franco: The Next Warhol?


The celebrity/art world machine doesn’t get much better than this: after a guest stint on a daytime soap and an appearance at Art Basel Miami Beach, we hear through the grapevine that actor/pinup James Franco has scored a gallery show with downtown enclave Deitch Projects. Though we’ve questioned his motives in the past, we’re warming up to the idea of Franco as Warhol 2.0: film and performance art wrapped into one highly marketable package. A rundown of Franco vs. Andy, after the jump.

As per a New York mag commenter (with bonus points for fancy German vocabulary):

Franco seems to be lining up all the right ringmasters, collaborators and noms du jour — Klausie, Deitch, Carter, Kalup Linzy, damn, even frog-voiced Leo Fitzpatrick — into one giant gesamtkunstwerk. Even if it totally blows as an actual project, its just utterly faboo and postmodern and “cross disciplinary” in exactly the right way. The machine that is being assembled, all that art world muscle, all those layers of reference and irony and “soap opera within a soap opera,” make it available for a hundred footnotes and at least one good all-night party.

Ja. Let’s break it down:

Conceptual films: Warhol had more than his share of 15 minutes of fame in his years as a filmmaker. From screen tests to longer features (like Blue Movie, Warhol’s last work as director, currently screening at PS1’s 1969 exhibition), he accumulated a gobsmacking film archive before his death in 1987. Franco is in the incubator stage of film legend at this point, but his conceptual cred in undeniable — “Erased,” a project directed by multimedia artist Carter, was screened at MoMA’s Modern Mondays series, and a two week guest spot on General Hospital is being touted as a “performance art” piece, later to be disseminated in a show at Deitch Projects. (See: Gallery Representation, below.) Upcoming projects: a collaboration with cross-dressing artist Kalup Linzy.

Spoken word: Franco lent his dulcet tones to a reading of beat writer Jack Kerouac for intellectual periodical Lapham’s Quarterly; Warhol obsessively recorded the words of himself and his posse on a device nicknamed “the wife.”

Television: Let’s give a hand to the late, lamented Freaks and Geeks, in which Franco mentor Judd Apatow parlayed a middlebrow medium into a cult classic beloved by culture snobs the world over. Warhol made several appearances on the boob tube as well, like a guest spot on The Love Boat, where a Midwestern wife is afraid Andy will reveal her past as a Factory regular to her ignorant husband. Yes.

Gallery Representation: Jeffrey Deitch (whom another internet commented referred to as the “Spaghetti Tester of the art world” [Ed. note: HA!]) has tapped Franco for a spring show at Deitch Projects, which will incorporate footage from the General Hospital endeavor — then taped and looped back into the actor’s story arc on the soap. Meta! Warhol’s gallery debut at Ferus Gallery in LA marked the birth of Pop Art on the West Coast; he later cycled through seminal New York galleries like Stable Gallery, Bodley Gallery, and Paul Bianchini. Franco has yet to make an impact on the auction world, while even silkscreened works by Warhol fetch millions and millions of dollars, even in an art market slump.

The Scene: Pittsburgh boy Warhola was a regular on the New York nightlife scene of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, with regular haunts at clubs like Max’s Kansas City and Studio 54. Though he was shy in person, his coterie of famous friends ranged from Lee Radziwell to Jean-Michel Basquiat to Truman Capote. Though James Franco is more often found (sleeping?) in class in a masters program at Columbia, he took some time off this December to schmooze around the annual art fair clusterfuck in Miami, mingling with ingenue Leigh Lezark, curator Klaus Biesenbach, and socialite Daphne Guinness. Don’t forget his built-in Hollywood cred.

Pop Culture as High Art: The same dude who starred in stoner flick Pineapple Express is also pals with edgy performance artist Marina Abramović, and he name checks other performers like Tino Seghal, Claire Fontaine, Allen Kaprow, and Ryan Trecartin. As a graduate candidate in the MFA program at New York’s iviest university, Franco is hopefully bringing some intellectualism to his portrayal of Allen Ginsberg in upcoming biopic Howl. As for Andy Warhol? This is the man who turned Pop Art into legitimate art, arguably influencing every contemporary artist on the planet. Including, apparently, James Franco.