Are celebrities the only ones who can afford to be artists any more?
“To me it’s about self-reflection,” says Brad Pitt, stumbling his way through an interview at a lakeside art museum in Finland, dressed in a tatty brown jumpsuit, gold chain, and a wide-brimmed fedora. “It’s about how… where have I gotten it wrong in my relationships, where have I misstepped, where am I complicit? It was born out of ownership of what I call a ‘radical inventory of self’.”
Surprisingly, this is not the sound of the Hollywood actor preparing for his next role as an archetypal Great Male Artist. Pitt is not gearing up to play the platitude-spouting lead in a sequel to Velvet Buzzsaw. No, the interview is real, conducted at the opening of a new show at Sara Hildén Art Museum, where the Oscar-winning actor is unexpectedly showing his art for the first time.
Revealed on Saturday, Pitt’s sculptures are included in a larger exhibition by the British artist Thomas Houseago. Also featured are ceramic works by the Australian musician Nick Cave (they’re a multi-talented bunch of pals, evidently), which are also being exhibited for the first time. Naturally, however, Pitt’s work has dominated conversation about the show since the September 17 opening, when a few images trickled out onto social media, circulating the Brad Pitt fandom.
By this point, you’re probably wondering: what does Brad Pitt’s “radical inventory of the self” actually look like? Well, from what we can see it’s quite violent – there’s a moulded frieze, titled Aiming At You I Saw Me But It Was Too Late This Time, that depicts an impressionistic gunfight, and a bronze coffin-size box covered in fragmented body parts. Apparently, these are the result of the actor-turned artist “taking account of those [he] may have hurt, and moments [he’s] just gotten wrong”).
Maybe this theme is more obvious in the house-shaped silicon sculpture shot with several bullets, though, or the life-sized plaster figure placing its own head in a vice, or the miniature house he made from blocks of reclaimed wood. After all, the latter – Pitt’s first ever sculpture – was apparently made in 2017, following his tumultuous divorce. In 2016, Angelina Jolie filed for divorce after an altercation that sparked an FBI invesigation of Pitt, on suspicion of physical and verbal abuse (Pitt was later cleared by the FBI). And what says “sorry” like retreating into a studio for 15 hours a day, and pumping a symbol of the family home full of lead?
Of course, it’s impossible to tell if that was what Pitt was really going for – maybe I’m just jealous that I can’t channel all of my misfortunes into big old sculptures, with practically unlimited time, resources, and art world connections. Come to think of it, is it only celebrities that can afford to break into the art world these days? That would explain the recent explosion of sculptures and paintings by celebrities who never previously picked up a paintbrush, from Jim Carrey to Johnny Depp (there’s a theme emerging here, and it has something to do with fedoras...).
Earlier this month, Skepta similarly made his art world debut with his one and only painting to date: titled Mama Goes to Market, the quarantine project went for a reported £81,900 at Sotheby’s. Even more recently, Robert Pattinson also made in-roads at the auction house, curating a contemporary auction. Surely it’s time for him to start churning out his own art as well? A glittery self-portrait, perhaps, or word art inspired by his emo journals in The Batman. Maybe a food-based performance?
At the very least, we can all look to budding artists like Brad Pitt – a 58-year-old man with a dream and a whole lot of “self-reflection” to work through – to kindle our own creativity. Remember, regardless of your age, all that stands between you and a successful art career is international adoration and a net worth in the hundreds of millions! So inspiring x