The Art World Crashes the Oscars: 9 Unexpected Cameos Made by Artists, Museums, and Art Memes at This Year’s Academy Awards

We spotted all the unexpected art world moments at this year's awards show.

Sculptor Kazu Hiro won the Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar for his work on Charlize Theron, who played Megyn Kelly in Bombshell. Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Lionsgate.
Sculptor Kazu Hiro won the Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar for his work on Charlize Theron, who played Megyn Kelly in Bombshell. Photo by Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Lionsgate.

Everyone knows the Academy Awards are the biggest night of the year for Hollywood, but last night’s ceremony was full of notable art world cameos. In case you missed them, we’ve rounded up our favorite artistic interludes at the 2020 Oscars.

Parasite takes Best Picture

Song Kang-ho, who plays the destitute Mr. Kim, holding the suseok in <em>Parasite</em>. Photo ©2019 CJ ENM CORPORATION, BARUNSON E&amp;A ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Song Kang-ho, who plays the destitute Mr. Kim, holding the suseok in Parasite. Photo ©2019 CJ ENM CORPORATION, BARUNSON.

History-making Best Picture winner Parasite was the first non-English language film to snag the award ceremony’s top honors. It also earned a Best Director statue for Bong Joon-ho, and trophies for Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film. What’s the film’s art world connection? Parasite‘s plot is set in motion by a suseok, a type of natural stone traditionally collected in Korea.

 

JR Walks the Red Carpet

French artist JR poses on arrival the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 9, 2020. Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

French artist JR poses on arrival the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 9, 2020. Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images.

The beloved street artist JR clad in his trademark hat and sunglasses, was spotted walking the red carpet with Robert De Niro—the pair once collaborated on a short film—and watching the ceremony inside Los Angeles’s Dolby Theater. JR himself was a nominee in 2018 for Best Documentary for Faces Places, which he co-directed with Agnes Varda. This year, the artist was likely on hand to support his good friend Ladj Ly, a nominee for Best International Film with Les Misérables.

The two grew up together on the streets of Paris, with Ly filming JR’s early street-art exploits. JR’s first major work, which features prominently at his current blockbuster exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, is a photo of Ly pointing his video camera like a gun. The duo is teaming up again at Ly’s Parisian film school, École Kourtrajmé, where JR is launching new courses for aspiring photographers.

 

In Memoriam Honors Two Great Female Artists and Filmmakers

Agnès Varda. Copyright Cortesía de FICG 25 / Oscar Delgado. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Agnès Varda. Copyright Festival Internacional de Cine Guadalajara 25 / Oscar Delgado. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Speaking of JR and Varda: the late filmmaker, who died in March at the age of 90, was among the recently deceased Hollywood talents featured in the Oscar’s annual in memoriam tribute. Also honored was experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, who died the same month at 79 from ovarian cancer.

A pioneer of French New Wave cinema, Varda was an accomplished photographer and artist who showed work at institutions including LACMA and the Fondation Cartier in Paris, as well as high-profile exhibitions like the Liverpool Biennial and the Biennale de Lyon.

Believed to be the first openly lesbian filmmaker, Hammer was renowned for her groundbreaking feminist practice, seen in a 2012 survey exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. She was included in last year’s Whitney Biennial, and also had 2019 solo shows at both Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum and the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio.

 

Brad Pitt Adds Second Oscar Statue to His Art Collection

Brad Pitt, winner of the Actor in a Supporting Role award for <em>Once Upon a Time in Hollywood</em> poses in the press room during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images.

Brad Pitt, winner of the Actor in a Supporting Role award for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood poses in the press room during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California. Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images.

Best Supporting Actor winner Brad Pitt’s love of art has been well-documented over the years. Last night, he added another sculpture to his holdings: the shiny Oscar statue, a gold-plated bronze depicting a sword-wielding knight standing on a film reel. The actor and producer was named Best Supporting Actor for his turn in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; he previously won the Best Picture award as a producer for 2014’s Twelve Years a Slave.

Everyone’s favorite fairgoer at last year’s Frieze Los Angeles, Pitt is known to own work by Richard Serra, Marcel Dzama, and Banksy, among other artists. During his high-profile divorce from fellow actor Angelina Jolie, he turned to art for solace, learning to sculpt in Thomas Houseago’s Los Angeles ceramics studio. Last night, after hugging friend and costar—and fellow art collector—Leonardo DiCaprio, Pitt used his acceptance speech to attack Senate Republicans for acquitting President Trump during last week’s impeachment proceedings.

 

Bro-Ramics Hits the Small Screen

Pitt’s newfound love of ceramics in line with a growing trend among male celebrities. DiCaprio reportedly joins Pitt for late-night sessions on the potter’s wheel, and Seth Rogen and James Franco have both have become avid sculptors.

During one commercial break during the 92nd Academy Awards, the bro-ramics trend came to the fore in an ad for ABC’s long-running reality TV hit The Bachelor. The series’ current star, pilot Peter Weber, reenacted the famous pottery wheel scene from the beloved 1990 romance Ghost, with a special cameo from Whoopi Goldberg.

Set, of course, to the sounds of Unchained Melody, the spot featured Weber sculpting clay as numerous pairs of disembodied hands caressed his hands, face, and shirtless, torso—a reference to the 30 eligible women who vie for the Bachelor’s heart each season. “Love is messy,” read the closing title card, after Goldberg warned Weber, “you in danger, boy.”

 

Tom Hanks Hyped the Long-Awaited Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Aerial view of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures under construction. Photo ©A.M.P.A.S.

Aerial view of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures under construction. Photo ©A.M.P.A.S.

“There is plenty of culture to be found here in the City of Angels. There are museums dedicated to art and music and history and science, and we even have a museum dedicated to selfies. I’m not sure why, but there it is,” actor Tom Hanks told the crowd inside the Dolby Theater. “But there has never been a museum dedicated to the art and science of major pictures.”

Come December, that will change. It hasn’t been an easy road for the forthcoming Academy Museum, which has twice delayed its planned opening and seen its founding director step down amid criticism. But the institution now has an official opening date, as announced by Hanks.

The two-time Best Actor winner joked about helping out with the construction along with Scarlett Johansson, her fiancé Colin Jost, and Brad Pitt—who could be spotted working shirtless on the roof, naturally—before announcing that the museum would finally be welcoming the public come December 14, 2020.

Sculptor Nabs Best Makeup Oscar

Kazu Hiro with one of his sculptures, of Abraham Lincoln, that was on view at the LA Art Show with Santa Monica's CoproGallery. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Kazu Hiro with one of his sculptures of Abraham Lincoln, which was on view at the LA Art Show with Santa Monica’s CoproGallery. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Japanese-American artist Kazu Hiro, formerly named Kazuhiro Tsuji, took home his second Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. He continues to win industry accolades, despite repeated attempts to retire from the film industry to focus on his sculpture practice. It was Charlize Theron who coaxed Hiro into signing on to do the makeup for Bombshell, transforming the film star into Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.

Hiro and his fellow winners, Anne Morgan, and Vivian Baker, achieved an uncanny likeness by using special prosthetics and other tricks of the trade. He thanked Theron for convincing him to take the job in his acceptance speech, saying “because of your bravery and passion, we were able to set a new bar in the makeup industry and create a new way to tell stories.”

The award show coincided with the last day of the LA Art Show, where Hiro’s larger-than-life, eerily hyperrealistic sculptures—on view with Santa Monica’s CoproGallery—were among the fair’s top-billed work. Hiro previously won an Oscar in 2018 for his work on The Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.

 

Kathryn Bigelow Thanks Her Mentor, Artist Lawrence Weiner

In an ad for Rolex that aired during the award ceremony, director Katheryn Bigelow—the only woman thus far to claim the Best Director Oscar, for 2010’s The Hurt Locker—spoke about the importance of her mentor, conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner, to her artistic development.

As a young San Francisco Art Institute graduate, Bigelow came to New York to enroll in the Whitney Independent Study Program. It was John Baldessari who introduced her to Weiner, kickstarting a fruitful ten-year mentorship.

“He would challenge your ideas, like ‘Why do you want to make this? Why is that an interesting idea? What is the purpose of it? What is the purpose of art?'” said Bigelow. “[Weiner] has so much integrity, and there’s so much honesty and truth in his work, that it’s very, in a way, overwhelming.”

 

Best Short Documentary Winner Highlights a Girls’ School in Afghanistan That Supports Itself By Selling Skateboard Art

Carol Dysinger’s film Learning To Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), about the Skateistan School House and Skatepark, in Kabul, Afghanistan, won the Oscar for Best Short Documentary. Skateistan, which teaches Afghan girls to read, write, and skate, is largely funded by the sales of skateboard art. The organization, which was founded by Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich, has teamed up over the years with high-profile names, from Paul McCarthy to the Andy Warhol Foundation.


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