The actor Robert De Niro hardly risks disappearing from the public radar, with his legacy firmly fastened down in classic films like "Taxi Driver" and "Goodfellas." His father, however, a painter whose postwar work melded Abstract Expressionist and more traditional, representational styles, has largely lost the attention of the art world he courted. (With the exception of a unhappy return to the public eye when his paintings were caught up in disgraced gallerist Lawrence Salander's art-world ponzi scheme scandal.) Now De Niro, Jr. will commemorate his late father's lifelong commitment to the arts by funding the Robert De Niro Sr. Prize, a yearly $25,000 award that will celebrate midcareer artists who have demonstrated outstanding talent in the field of American painting.
"I am proud to honor my father as an artist and pay tribute to his painting through the Robert De Niro, Sr. Prize," the actor said in a statement, released after he and advisors from his father's estate announced the prize tonight at a reception in his father's studio. "By annually awarding an American artist who is recognized for exceptional quality in painting, we hope to support artists, like my father, who are making a lifelong commitment to their art."The Tribeca Film Institute, founded in 2001 by De Niro, will administer the prize, handing out the inaugural award in 2011. A group exhibition will be held for the finalists at which the winner — selected by a panel of as-yet-unnamed judges — will be announced. Artists interested in being considered for the prize should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perhaps this new award will revive the name of the late painter who exhibited at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery in the 1940s. (A mainstay of the Abstract Expressionist scene, he also studied with Joseph Albers at Black Mountain College and laterwith Hans Hofmann.) De Niro Sr.'s work now resides in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Hirsshorn, the Metropolitan, the Smithsonian, and the Parrish. This year his work — his estate is now represented by New York's DC Moore Gallery — was shown in a posthumous exhibition at the Musée Matisse in Nice.