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James Franco Convinces Jerry Saltz He’s A Real Artist

Apr 20, 2016

James Franco has famously resisted being identified as merely an actor, pursuing a simultaneous life in the art world — making videos of dollhouses split in half, painting fat pets, and restaging Cindy Sherman’s iconic 1977–1980 “Untitled Film Stills,” with Franco himself standing in for Sherman, who was (in her own version) standing in for a variety of actresses in B-movies. New York art critic Jerry Saltz called the works in that 2014 show at the Pace Gallery, Franco’s most high-profile in New York, “silly self-obsessed demi-drag re-creations,” and wrote that “at this point George W. Bush is actually a better artist than James Franco.” The New York Times pleaded, “Someone or something, make him stop” — in a review written by Saltz’s wife, co–chief art critic Roberta Smith. In almost four hours of conversation in Los Angeles this winter, the artist and critic met and talked honestly about why the art world has been so hostile to Franco and other celebrities who try to enter it — and what drives Franco to continue, hostility be damned.

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