We Rank 16 Celebrities Aspiring to Art World Recognition—Who Will Win?

James Franco, Miley Cyrus, Jim Carrey and others duke it out.

Miley Cyrus performing at Art Basel. Photo: Startraks

Miley Cyrus performing at Art Basel.

Photo: Startraks

In light of the “Björk” show at MoMA, which celebrates one brilliant musician’s artistic output within a visual arts context, however widely it was ridiculed (see Ladies and Gentlemen, the Björk show at MoMA is Bad, Really Bad), we’ve decided to take a look at our favorite musicians and actors who have crossed over into the world of painting, sculpture, and performance art. But we won’t just list them. We’ll have them battle it out in our arena.

The ultimate wannabe fine artist is one who is sincere in his or her effort, though not necessarily the most critically successful. And, let’s not forget, one who tries the very hardest. Here is the artnet News Ultimate Wannabe Fine Artist Tournament; read on to see who takes the cake.






Pierce Brosnan  vs. Viggo Mortensen


Although generation Y-ers grew up with Brosnan as the leading 007 man in their life, the actor is actually a trained commercial artist who paints colorful figurative portraits (see Pierce Brosnan Inspires Paralyzed Painter). However, Brosnan’s canvases fall flat compared to Viggo Mortensen’s layered and washed-out abstract paintings which were actually featured in his film, A Perfect Murder.

WINNER: Viggo Mortensen. Besides making paintings, the Lord of the Rings star also has a music label and helped make an educational CD on Greek Mythology. What an over-achiever in obscure art-related fields.

Lucy Liu vs. Dennis Hopper


When she’s not playing a ruthless assassin, Lucy Liu paints and sculpts. She recently unveiled decades worth of her art on lucyliu.net and we’ve got to say, we’re impressed. Actor Dennis Hopper turned to photography when Hollywood deemed him too hard to work with. He documented Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963 and captured intimate images of Jane Fonda and Andy Warhol. The actor also heavily collected pop art, owning works by Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol.

WINNER: Dennis Hopper. In a fit of paranoia, he once shot two bullet holes in his Mao print by Warhol, which later sold at Christie’s for $302,500. Talk about an artist making his mark.

Gary Busey vs. Jim Carrey


Garey Busey’s cameo that was a parody of himself, an actor turned artist, on HBO’s hit television series Entourage cemented our suspicions that he was truly wacky. Busey now sells hilarious posters online that he calls “buseyisms” where he creates his own original acronyms for commonly used words such as “awesome,” “love,” and “art” (here, “fly” means “First Love Yourself”). When he’s not being funny in a manic-depressive way, Jim Carrey paints (see Jim Carrey Is … a Painter?)—images of women, self-portraits, and pop culture icons, that is.

WINNER: Gary Busey. He unabashedly uses his name to sell his arty posters —his “buseyisms” can be purchased framed or even in calendar form.

Shia LaBeouf vs. James Franco


Shia Labeouf made headlines this past year for allegedly being raped during his performance #IAMSORRY (see Shia LaBeouf Embroiled in Pedophilia Controversy), running around Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum for art, and joining in on a performance mocking himself (see Shia LaBeouf Participates in a Performance Mocking Shia LaBeouf). “Renaissance man” James Franco counts Hollywood actor, soap star, performance artist, grad student, author, director, and painter among his putative achievements. Besides acting, critics have agreed, everything else he does is pretty much a nonstarter (see Why James Franco’s Cindy Sherman Homage at Pace is Not Just Bad But Offensive).

WINNER: James Franco. While both are mediocre, James Franco spreads his mediocrity thinner.



Bob Dylan vs. Joni Mitchell


150318-DylanVsMitchellWas Bob Dylan the voice of his generation? Many would say so. The singer-songwriter whose original hits include “The Times They Are a-Changin’” and “Rolling Stone,” is also a painter. Dylan showed his canvasses at Gagosian in 2011, but there was doubt as to whether his depictions of his travels in the Far East were taken from his own experience (some believed they were taken from popular photographs). In 1998, the singer-songwriter and music pioneer Joni Mitchell declared “I’m a painter first, and a musician second.” She’s painted portraits of famous musicians as well as a number of landscapes, abstract works, and figurative drawings.

WINNER: Joni Mitchell. The trash-talking singer called Dylan out as a “fake” and then added that her contemporaries Janis Joplin and Grace Slick “[slept with] their whole bands.” Sounds like a bitter wannabe to us.

David Bowie  vs. Kim Gordon


David Bowie, the ultimate fashion and music chameleon, has already had a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (see David Bowie Retrospective Touches Down in Chicago). But the 68-year-old singer also paints and collects fine art. Kim Gordon, best-known for her role as singer and bassist of Sonic Youth also moonlights as a fine artist. She nabbed her degree in Art & Design from Otis college in 1977, and shortly after began writing for ArtForum. Her paintings and watercolors have been spotted at galleries and institutions around the globe including White Columns and Gagosian gallery.

WINNER: Kim Gordon. She’s even taken part in some of the most respected art fairs; we recently spotted her conceptual paintings at 303 Gallery’s booth at Art Basel in Hong Kong.

Chris Brown vs. David Byrne

150318-BrownVsByrneDavid Byrne, the principle songwriter for American new wave band the Talking Heads, also makes sculpture, paints, and once turned a building into a musical instrument. Chris Brown collaborated with street artist KAI on seven art pieces for an auction sale in Miami. The artworks fetched tens of thousands of dollars and half of the proceeds went to benefit the Arts and Business Council of Miami (see Chris brown’s Art Find Eager Buyers at Miami Street Art Auction).

WINNER: David Byrne. Because he once proclaimed that he “[didn’t] care about contemporary art anymore,” seems like he’s more of a dabbler than a lifer.

Miley Cyrus vs. Moby

150318-CyrusVsMobyDisney-darling-turned-provocative-pop-star known for her twerking skills, Miley Cyrus has also taken a stab at creating art. This past year, she revealed her neon sculptures, which look like an explosion of rave leftovers and children’s toys (see Miley Cyrus Makes Erotic Sculptures). Moby shaped dance music in the early 90’s but since a young age has been interested in photography. Original Moby images have graced many of his album covers and he recently had a photography show at Emmanuel Fremin gallery in Chelsea (see Moby’s Photographs Envision the World’s First Post-Apocalyptic Cult).

WINNER: Miley Cyrus. She performed at an exclusive concert at Art Basel in Miami Beach last year organized by Jeffrey Deitch—we hope she didn’t think it would bring her more art world cred.




Viggo Mortensen vs. James Franco


WINNER: James Franco. With all-too-frequent appearances on Klaus Biesenbach’s Instagram account, he could be the celebrity poster boy of MoMA PS1.


Gary Busey vs. Dennis Hopper


WINNER:  Dennis Hopper. The cult actor, photographer, and avid art collector reportedly pulled a knife on actor Rip Torn during the filming of Easy Rider. This attempt at Van Gogh-like levels of craziness reveals his eagerness to be the off-kilter artiste.


Dennis Hopper vs. James Franco


WINNER: James Franco. He has stuck his hand in every cookie jar in the “arts” pantry.



David Byrne vs. Joni Mitchell


WINNER: David Byrne. He complained in his blog that contemporary art caters to the one percent, while he has an estimated net worth of $40 million. What a wannabe “starving artist.”


Miley Cyrus vs. Kim Gordon


150318-CyrusVsGordonWINNER: Miley Cyrus, because the total reinvention of her Disney image (though successful) doesn’t make her sculptures—composed of vibrators, marijuana joints, party hats, and pineapples—look any less desperate for attention.


Miley Cyrus vs. David Byrne


150318-CyrusVsByrneWINNER: Miley Cyrus. The eloquent pop star used the word “shit” six times when describing her sleep-deprived, drug-fueled artistic process in an interview with V Magazine. Truly inspiring, Miley!




James Franco  vs. Miley Cyrus

James Franco taking a selfie. Photo: Paper Magazine

James Franco taking a selfie.
Photo: Paper Magazine

ULTIMATE FINE ARTIST WANNABE: James Franco, because his mediocrity outshines everyone else in this tournament. Only the Franco-man could be a Hollywood actor who was nominated for an Oscar, hosted the Oscars, have a recurring role in an ABC soap opera, be the face of a Gucci fragrance, attend UCLA, Columbia University, NYU, Brooklyn college, Yale, and Rhode Island School of Design, and dabble in art by the time he was 36.

He is a jack of all trades, but master of none (except, of course, winning wannabe artist tournaments).

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