James Franco Plans First Solo Gallery Show in Berlin

James Franco Plans First Solo Gallery Show in Berlin
For anyone who thought that James Franco's turn in the art world would be a short-lived dalliance to be as quickly cast aside as Lady Gaga's meat dress, the Hollywood actor's ambitious artistic projects for 2011 may put those suspicions to rest — beginning with his first solo gallery show, to be held at the Peres Projects gallery in Berlin. Set to open in February during the Berlin Film Festival (in which Franco will be screening a movie), the show will be an elaboration on the "Dangerous Book Four Boys" exhibition that Franco displayed this summer at Alanna Heiss's Clocktower space in New York.

"There will be the same videos as at the Clocktower, but more drawings, as well as paintings and photographs," said dealer Javier Peres, who is known for working with artists like Terence Koh and the late Dash Snow. "Also, we will be selling the work. Everything is for sale. We haven't gotten into pricing the work yet, but since this is his first show for sale I expect the prices will be quite reasonable."

Opting to have his first solo gallery show in Berlin might at first seem an odd choice for Franco, whose "General Hospital" appearances were showcased earlier this year at Los Angeles's MOCA and who would likely have no trouble finding a prominent gallery to display his work closer to home. But Peres and Franco have known each other for eight years, from the early days of the dealer's Los Angeles operation. "He was hanging around in my gallery," Peres says. "Of course, I hadn't watched TV for ten years, so I hadn't seen him in 'Freaks and Geeks,' and I wasn't a movie buff. I figured he was just some young artist, and I got to know him in that way. He would talk about art, and I would think, 'Wow, you really know your shit.' Over the years we have talked, kept in touch." Franco, he added, "takes his artistic practice seriously."

There may be another reason why the actor decided to show in Berlin. "Generally speaking, the notion of celebrity in Germany is not what it is in New York or Los Angeles," according to Peres. "We don't have the same general fixation on it in Germany. In Berlin, really famous people can walk down the street without problems or bodyguards. Here, James will be judged based on the merits of work." That's not to say that he'll go unrecognized, though. "I mean, 'Spiderman' was huge everywhere," Peres says. "It's just that in many ways an actor-artist like James is better received in Europe than in the U.S. He does other projects that people in the U.S. think are 'out there,' but in Europe avant-garde films are more mainstream."

The dealer first approached Franco about doing the show a few weeks ago. "We are approaching this as an artist my gallery will represent," Peres says. "There are a gazillion cases of people who have celebrity from other things but make art, but James is a real artist." Franco's edgier film work is another story, however. "James invited me to the premiere of '127 Hours' in London, but I said 'Fuck no,'" says Peres. "I'm a sissy. I don't like anxiety or goriness in my movies. I like lighthearted romantic comedies."