Robert De Niro Sr. Is Having His Moment in the Art World
Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro Sr., the documentary that airs tonight on HBO, was initiated by the actor Robert De Niro, who has long sought a wider audience for his father’s work. Traditionally a reluctant interviewee, he’s promoted the film on Charlie Rose, The Daily Show, The View, and in The New Yorker and Out. He visited DC Moore Gallery this past Thursday night for a reception for the film, and again on Friday, for the opening of “Robert De Niro Sr., Paintings and Drawings (1948–1989),” which runs through July 11. Prices at the exhibit range from $14,000 for charcoal drawings to $250,000 for the largest paintings. This Thursday, June 12, De Niro Sr.’s painting Untitled (1971) is to be auctioned at Sotheby’s, on an estimate of $5,000 to $7,000.
“In an odd paradoxical way, the more they cost, the more the art is preserved because it’s an asset,” De Niro said in a 2010 interview with this reporter in his father’s SoHo studio, which he’s painstakingly preserved. “That’s okay with me, just to make sure it’s preserved and has a home.’’
De Niro Sr., who died in 1993, was a figurative painter heavily influenced by Matisse. After some early success, he was eclipsed by Pop art and Minimalism. Bridget Moore, president of DC Moore, which represents the estate, said he was a remarkable talent who struggled to fit in and make a living. “He was very committed to what he thought his role was as an artist,” she said in an interview with artnet News. “De Niro [the actor] is painfully aware of the sacrifices his father made.’’
The film includes interviews with contemporary artists Paul Resika and Albert Kresch, and with the actor, who is shown reading from De Niro Sr.’s journals. The artist suffered from guilt about his homosexuality and with depression. Jane Rosenthal, who cofounded Tribeca Productions with De Niro in 1988, originally hired the filmmakers Perri Peltz and Geeta Ghandbhir. Once HBO got involved, she said, the network “assumed financial responsibility’’ for the film.
De Niro told Charlie Rose he envisioned the film as a “documentation” for his six children. After shooting some interviews, “We came to the realization that it was bigger than one man’s story,’’ Peltz told artnet News. The actor feels an obligation to expose the work to a wider audience, she said, as he feels it was overlooked in his father’s lifetime. The actor often chokes up when discussing Dad, who was just 21 when the actor was born. De Niro Sr. died at 71, of prostate cancer.
“You get the sense that the relationship was very loving but it wasn’t constant,’’ Moore said. “There’s this regret that the father died too early.’’
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