Celebrities seemed to make more cameos in the art world this past year than ever before. There were the actors performing artistic parts: Julia Stiles played a curator in Riviera, while Antonio Banderas will soon portray Pablo Picasso in Ron Howard’s Genius and Gael García Bernal has been cast as an art thief.
Then, there are the actors who’ve rebranded themselves as artists—here’s looking at you, Brad Pitt—and the contentious legal battles over artworks—see: Alec Baldwin. But did you know that Adele claimed to be selling pom pom crafts on Etsy, Jay-Z performed in front of a giant Jeff Koons balloon dog, Colin Kaepernick’s jersey went on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Cheech Marin is opening a Chicao art museum, and Kristen Stewart transformed film stills into paintings through the power of artificial intelligence? And while Sylvester Stallone didn’t get the nod as head of the National Endowment for the Arts, he did sell his book collection at Heritage Auctions New York.
As we head into a new year, we look back on our favorite neighborhood celebrities-turned-artists. Here’s a roundup of the biggest celebrity art stories of 2017.
On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, Madonna spoke with Marilyn Minter at the Brooklyn Museum about sexism in America. The evening kicked off with a screening of secretprojectrevolution, a black-and-white film starring, directed, and produced by Madonna. In a wide-ranging conversation, the two compared notes on aging in their respective fields: “They don’t let you get old if you’re an entertainer, but in the art world, you can get old,” said Minter.
It was a busy year for Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö, and Luke Turner, who were stymied at every turn by members of the Alt Right for their controversial protest project He Will Not Divide Us. The participatory livestream was meant to run for the duration of Trump’s presidency, but they pulled the plug, moving to a secret location in March after it was repeatedly targeted by violent white supremacist protesters at multiple locations. At one point, Le Beouf was arrested at a rally. (The project, now featuring a flag emblazoned with the titular phrase, relaunched in October at the Le Lieu Unique national center for arts in Nantes, France.) Far-right internet trolls even attempted to track the art collective down during a performance piece where they were each staying in isolated Finnish cabins.
When Beyoncé set the record for the world’s most-liked Instagram photo with her pregnancy announcement, it also made the artist behind the image, Awol Erizku, a star. The Los Angeles- and New York-based artist drew on religious iconography to craft the photo, in which the singer kneels in front of an elaborate floral arrangement. Artist Mason Poole, also based in LA, was responsible for the first photo of her twin babies, shot in a similar style.
In addition to being a legendary talk show host, actress, and global cultural icon, Oprah is also a noted art collector. Earlier this year, it was revealed that she made no less than $150 million when she sold a Gustav Klimtportrait in 2016. She had purchased Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912), the subject of a drawn-out Nazi-related restitution battle, from the subject’s descendants at Christie’s in 2006 for $87.9 million.
Is Britney Spears the next Georgia O’Keeffe? The pop songstress went viralwhen she shared a video of herself painting flowers on Instagram. (The clip was only 33 seconds long, but managed to feature an outfit change and attract more than five million views.) She went on to sell the canvas at a benefit auction for victims of the Las Vegas shooting for $10,000.
In addition to helping his friend LaBeouf unveil He Will Not Divide Us, actor and singer Jaden Smith went through of phase of leaving his paintings free for the taking outside of Los Angeles art galleries.
Under the tutelage of artist Thomas Houseago, Brad Pitt has been reborn as a sculptor. In the wake of his divorce from Angelina Jolie, Pitt, a longtime art collector, reportedly began spending as much as 15 hours a day at work in Houseago’s Los Angeles studio. “I’m making everything. I’m working with clay, plaster, rebar, wood,” he told GQ Style.
With the series finale of Girls in her rear-view mirror, actress and painter Jemima Kirke was free to focus on her artwork this year. During New York Fashion Week, she joined sisters Tallulah and Scout Willis in creating work for Alice + Olivia’s unconventional runway show inspired by the Chelsea Hotel. Currently, you can catch her paintings of depressed brides—Kirke and Michael Mosberg divorced this year—at her first solo show at New York’s Sargent’s Daughters, on view through January 21, 2018.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest art headline of the year was not, surprisingly, that he has been cast as his namesake, Renaissance great Leonardo da Vinci in an upcoming film from Paramount. Instead, it was his mysterious entanglement in the ongoing investigation into a Malaysian embezzlement scandal. In June, DiCaprio surrendered a $3.2 million Picasso and a $9 million Basquiat to the US government. DiCaprio received the works from Malaysian financier and art collector Jho Low. The actor’s links to Malaysia stem from his starring role in the film The Wolf of Wall Street, produced by a company co-founded by the stepson of the Malaysian prime minister.
The internet was in awe when Jim Carrey showcased his artwork in a recent mini documentary. It turns out that painting has become an obsession for the comic actor over the past six years. The boldly colorful fruits of his labor then went on view in a solo show from the Signature Gallery Group in Las Vegas.
It seems not a year goes by without James Franco unveiling a new art project. This year, the actor-turned-artist teamed up with his brother, Tom Franco, for sewer-themed art show in Arizona. Titled “Pipe Brothers: Tom and James Franco,” the exhibition, at the Ceramics Research Center at the Arizona State University Art Museum, featured columnar sculptures carved from vitrified clay sewer pipes Phoenix’s Mission Clay Products, which has been partnering with artists for nearly 40 years.
Frances Bean Cobain
Frances Bean Cobain got her second gallery show, at Gallery 30 South in Pasadena, featuring her moody mixed media drawings. Her father, the late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, was known to make art himself, and, according to the artnet Price Database, set a new auction record this year with a $64,000 sale at Julien’s Auctions, on an untitled canvas that carried a high estimate of just $4,000.
Even as he insisted he had planned to dissolve the Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, whose members resigned en masse in August, Trump sold $29,184 drawing at auction, and was later bested on the block by a JFK painting. It was also revealed that he bragged about a fake Renoir on his private plane, and that his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trumpand Jared Kushner had failed to disclose their multi-million dollar art collection when being vetted for their government posts. He and his staff also became the subjects of a fabulously creepy portrait series by Oliver Wasow.