Art in the popular culture – Donating by peterfuchs
September 24, 2008, 8:17 pm
Filed under: Art as Gift Research blog | Tags:
An art donor, Iron Man

An art donor, Iron Man

Yesterday I had the chance to see the action hero flick Iron Man (2008), in which Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the young prodigal son, who owns an entire weapon manufacture company, faces the dire consequences of his ignorance on who and why for is using his merchandise of death, and decides to undo all evil by himself. He dresses in a super-armor and making the world a better place  by eliminating the bad guys personally. Yet, in the beginning of the movie, Stark is portrayed as a flamboyant playboy and inventor with a wide selection of interest, who when asked if he resembles Leonardo Da Vinci, states that he is not painting, but “basically, yes“.

At the very moment Tony Stark realizes how awful the world is, and how much pain he caused with his business conduct, and even trough he got injured in his first mission to save earth, he summons his charming secretary and right hand Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and express his will to continue on to make the world a better place as a superhero:

Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts: Tony, you know that I would help you with anything, but I cannot help you if you’re going to start all this again.
Tony Stark: There is nothing except this. There’s no art opening, no charity, nothing to sign. There’s the next mission, and nothing else.
Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts: Is that so? Well, then I quit.
Tony Stark: You stood by my side all these years while I reaped the benefits of destruction. Now that I’m trying to protect the people I’ve put in harm’s way, you’re going to walk out?
Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts: You’re going to kill yourself, Tony. I’m not going to be a part of it.
Tony Stark: I shouldn’t be alive… unless it was for a reason. I’m not crazy, Pepper. I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it’s right.

Earlier, during the first part of the movie, we could see a large number of artworks in Starks luxury apartment, and during one of his brief meetings with Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts, the secretary, we witness an in detail conversation on a possible acquisition of a  Jackson Pollock painting. Stark and Pepper goes into a very brief professional debate if the given painting is from the Spring period of Pollock or not, and when they come up that it might be from that period, Stark orders the secretary to buy it and store it in a vault with a only a slight movement of the hand. Stark also own a large collection of vintage sport cars.

Let’s contemplate a little on these scenes from the movie. The young multimillionaire appears to be a patron of arts, contemporary (at least modern) art especially (check out his apartment from the movie).  Now, whose art he is collecting, for who he is donating, when he says: “There’s no art opening, no charity, nothing to sign!“?

First, lets take a look of Tony Stark fictional bio from Wikipedia:

Born Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark, he suffers a severe heart injury during a kidnapping and is forced to build a destructive weapon. He instead creates a power suit to save his life and help protect the world as the superhero Iron Man. He is a wealthy industrialist and genius inventor who created military weapons and whose metal suit is laden with technological devices that enable him to fight crime. Initially, Iron Man was a vehicle for Stan Lee (the creator of Iron Man comics) to explore Cold War themes, particularly the role of American technology and business in the fight against communism. Subsequent re-imaginings of Iron Man have gradually removed the Cold War themes, replacing them with more contemporary concerns such as corporate crime and terrorism.

Stark is the stereotypical businessman of the Cold War era United States, concerned about global political, social issues and possibly intervening onto them, in this case with direct action. His past life of “art openings, charity and signing petitions” has passed as he become involved on a direct level into geopolitical issues – but let’s get back from the fantasies of the comics.

Stark (let’s stick to the 2008 movie version of him)  is a collector, and a generous donor of art – his cliche character might be familiar from the movie Citizen Kane (1941) by Orson Welles. What kind of art he is collecting and why he does so? Critical art mediated by professional curators which aiming key social, political questions and directly intervene into these processes? Or a market oriented production of paintings and sculptures which are manufactured by professional craftsman? Do not forget that Jackson Pollock, who has a brief appearance in the movie, was considered to be by some art-historians to be the later in the final stage of his career.

His character, like many other example of bourgeois background heroes and villains (remember from the 70′ how much the evil-doers of the James Bond movies liked to collect minimalist art) in the popular cinema and culture are collecting artworks as a sign of fine taste and elegance.The modern mind is surrounded with modern thoughts, modern artworks. But does this character of art patronage do have any relation to what nowadays we call critical artistic practice? Does it has any relation of what is seen in any contemporary art related exhibition space or institution? Or it is just about the aesthetics, a mere cliche in the narration of the life events of the main protagonist, who supports free thoughts and arts just to display his/her talents in diverse fields?

Iron Man – Stark gives an answer, as he denounces his former life, and deeds in the field of charity and “art openings”, and votes for the action. Maybe it is possible, that Iron Man was engaged into an art world which has vary little influence out of its circles and decided to take the very same direction of direct action and intervention as activist art, hactivismtactical media, radical avantgarde, guerilla art does? Maybe all superheroes are artist or all artist are superheroes?

Do you see the opposing stances the two art model generates?


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

wow!iron man it’s cool

Comment by jordan

i like both modern arts and classic arts because they both good `

Comment by Rain Jacket ·

you just have to get used to modern art to appreciate the beauty of it ~”:

Comment by Valeria Kelly

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