See 12 of the Most Memorable and Silly Artist Television Show Cameos
Remember that time Jasper Johns was on the Simpsons?
The match-up of art and pop culture can produce some weird hybrids. The new Ovation show Art Breaker$ has been notable for its failures so far, and Crackle’s upcoming auction-house drama The Art of More looks hilariously over the top rather than right-on. The successful intersection of the two worlds is not impossible though, and below, 12 examples of artists or art-world personalities crossing over into the wider world of culture:
Salvador Dalí as a contestant on What’s My Line?, 1952
It takes the blindfolded contestants an excruciatingly long time to guess the identity of their “Celebrity Mystery Guest,” given the fact that Dalí’s ego is so large that he answers yes to everything from, “Would you be considered a leading man?” to “Are you a performer?” At one point they are so vexed that they actually have to confirm, “You are a human being?” At any rate, Dalí plays along gamely. He may even be a better game show contestant than a painter. And yes, that is a burn.
Andrew Wyeth as a guest on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, 1972
Fred Rogers was a Wyeth superfan, and the set of his long-running children’s show on PBS had a work by Wyeth on the wall right at the entrance he appeared in every day. In 1972, the Christina’s World painter visited, showing off the artwork that went into creating an animated film to accompany Rogers’s ditty, You’ve Got to Do It. Sadly, we’ve been unable to track down a clip of this Wyeth/Rogers collaboration.
Andy Warhol guest stars on the Love Boat, 1985
This may be the most famous artist-TV cameo of all the time. The Love Boat specialized in guest stars from the washed-up—Warhol’s fellow guest stars on this episode were Milton Berle, Andy Griffith, Cloris Leachman, Tom Bosley, and Marion Ross, and Warhol recalled in his diary that Griffith seemed “bitter to be on Love Boat.” But in 1985, on the contrary, Warhol was at the height of his fame (though artistically speaking, he was definitely past his prime). The cameo came about because Love Boat producer Doug Cramer, one of the biggest collectors in LA, asked Warhol personally. (William Poundstone has a good summary of the action, since there’s no clip online.)
Jasper Johns as a thieving version of himself on The Simpsons, 1999
This is one of the long-running prime-time cartoon’s several dips into the art world. The episode, “Mom and Pop Art,” which also includes an opening montage drawn by Banksy, features Homer becoming an art sensation when a gallerist (voiced by Isabella Rosellini) embraces the wreckage of his barbecue pit as a sculptural masterpiece. Jasper Johns makes a cameo as himself, with the mega-successful neo-Dada painter inexplicably depicted raiding a buffet and stuffing food into his trench coat, then stealing a light bulb from a party (to cast it in lead?).
Chuck Close as himself on Sesame Street, 2001
Big Bird makes a visit to Chuck Close’s studio, and comes away with a pretty simple lesson from his good friend Chuck: “Paintings are amazing!”
Marina Abramovic—or at least her art—on Sex and the City, 2003
Abramovic doesn’t technically make an appearance on the show, or even really get namechecked on Sex and the City. But the show made colorful use of her 2002 endurance piece-cum-installation The House With the Ocean, for which she camped out for 12 days atop a platform inside Sean Kelly Gallery. The reference gave the artist a lasting halo of pop-culture cred. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) even predicts Abramovic’s real-life ascent to singular performance-art superstardom, that would only come a bit later, with her MoMA show. “When I was working in the galleries,” says Charlotte, “performance art was more theater than installation; she’s moved it to the next level.”
Walter Robinson as himself on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, 2003
When Bravo’s style program kicked off, its very first episode centered on transforming scrubby artist Brian Schepel into the metrosexual he would need to be to make it in the art world. At his gallery debut at the show’s end (around minute 42), the arrival of New York painter and art critic (and editor of the original Artnet Magazine) Walter Robinson plays a key role in the plot: his presence illustrates that Schepel’s stylish new persona has helped him be embraced by the art world. Robinson is seen praising the work’s cinematic qualities and telling Schepel to keep up the good work. Watching remotely, the show’s chorus of makeover experts cheers “Art critic found!” as Robinson gives his business card and tells him to keep Schepel on the mailing list.
Richard Phillips on Gossip Girl, 2008
Phillips’s art had a regularly featured role on the CW hit, with his painting Spectrum being almost a character. In 2012, he showed up for a brief cameo at an Art Production Fund gala (Doreen Ramen of the APF also makes an appearance), where the painter is very briefly overheard reminiscing for a time “when artists were the stars of New York. Instead of celebutantes.” Irony!
Andres Serrano, Frank Stella, Shepard Fairey, and William Wegman as themselves on the Colbert Report, 2010
To try to enhance the value of his portrait of himself, Colbert’s blowhard pundit character brings in some art-star power, asking, in succession, Frank Stella (whom he refers to as the “father of minimalism”), street art star Shepard Fairey, and Piss Christ auteur Andres Serrano each add their own touches to the work. The special Colbert art segment must have been a hit, because a day later, clad in a beret, he followed up by inviting anyone from the Internet to download the picture and “improve” it, and playing a segment where dog-loving conceptual photographer William Wegman showed viewers how it’s done (Wegman took a picture of his Weimaraner dressed as Colbert in front of the painting, naturally).
Jeffrey Deitch as himself and Kalup Linzy as “Kalup Dashinel” on General Hospital, 2010
James Franco’s memorably weird guest turn on General Hospital as a multimedia artist/serial killer named Franco, came to a delirious end when the character staged a sinister art installation/trap at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. While attempting to track down Franco at the gala opening, GH’s Jason Morgan confronts the artist’s collaborator “Kalup Dashinel,”played by real-life artist Kalup Linzy, and Jeffrey Deitch, then in the middle of his rocky tenure as LA MOCA director. “This is Jeffrey Deitch, he made this whole thing happen,” says Linzy to the beefy soap hunk. (The encounter goes down at 3:20.)
Jerry Saltz as “Casting Man” on Girls, 2014
Saltz is the most famous art critic in the United States and the real-life godfather of Girls creator Lena Dunham. And that was all it took to win him exactly one line on the HBO show. That line is this: “I said to get two chickens! Whoops, we’re back. Okay. Bye.”
Shepard Fairey as employee at “Shocking Art Supplies” on Portlandia, 2014
The sketch show gets a B for casting, since Fairey is more of a graffiti guy, not really the prototypical “art school” type. But it gets an A for humor, with its “Shocking Art Supplies” sketch ably spoofing typical art student tropes like sinister TVs and mis-connected doll parts. And you know what? Fairey actually is pretty funny in his role in the dippy promo.
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