For the last couple of years, I've been looking at the mediocre art of the actor James Franco, and thinking there might be an element of brilliance in it. He provides such a generic, superficial version of contemporary art that it's like what a genius set decorator might supply for a Hollywood movie about the Chelsea scene. Could it be that Franco's entire art career has in fact been about him giving a brilliant theatrical performance as a generic contemporary artist – sort of like the one he played so well on General Hospital?
Franco's appearance last night for a 20-minute book talk at PS1, the MoMA affiliate, made me have significant doubts. Klaus Biesenbach, PS1's director, lobbed softball questions that, as he himself admitted, are what you toss out when you can't think of anything else: What Web sites do you visit? What did you do after school when you were 14? And Franco struck out on every one, yielding zero insight into why he makes art, or why we should care. He came across as what he may just be: A self-regarding Hollywood starlet who thinks that a career as an artist, however part-time, will somehow yield cultural status. When the audience started tossing out some tougher questions, Franco beat a panicked retreat.
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