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Jake Gyllenhaal and the horrors of contemporary art

20 January 2019

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

2019 is set to be a bumper year for art world/Hollywood crossovers. First up, erstwhile timelord Matt Smith as Robert Mapplethorpe in a biopic of the photographer. And then, more alarmingly, silver screen hardman Liam Neeson as a ‘bohemian artist’ in a romcom called Made in Italy – which, if nothing else, certainly shows the gun-toting Taken star is not one to be typecast.

More intriguing altogether is Dan Gilroy’s art world satire Velvet Buzzsaw, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a contemporary art critic based in Los Angeles. Apparently, the film – which also features Rene Russo as a blue-chip gallerist and John Malkovich as a star contemporary artist – was inspired by a visit Gilroy took to Dia: Beacon in upstate New York.

‘I was wandering around this huge, empty warehouse with all this rather disturbing contemporary art,’ the director told Vanity Fair. ‘And I wound up in the basement in a video installation with, like, dentist chairs and rats running around. And I just thought, “Man, this would be a great place for a horror movie”.’ (As some commentators have been quick to suggest, the installation in question sounds a lot like Bruce Nauman’s multichannel video Mapping the Studio (Fat Chance John Cage) – a highlight of the Dia Art Foundation collection.)

Further plot details are scarce at the time of writing – but this has not prevented some from calling the film’s verisimilitude into question…

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