Chapman brothers direct film comedy about the art world
Jake and Dinos Chapman found fame at the vanguard of the Young British Artists (YBA) movement, producing controversial works that placed them at the centre of London's arts scene for more than a decade. Now, the enfants terribles of British art are turning to film. The brothers are in the early stages of directing a comedy-drama inspired by the artistic circles in which they move.
The Chapmans will develop the idea – described as a "comedy about the art world" – over the next 18 months with Channel 4. It is not known if the drama will send up the world in which the Turner Prize-nominated artists have thrived since the Nineties, when Charles Saatchi began championing their work.
Jake Chapman confirmed yesterday that he was about to make his directorial debut with the feature-length drama, saying he was looking forward to the challenge. "It's true and it's exciting. I even get a canvas chair with my name stencilled on it," he said.
Jake is believed to have come up with the idea for the comedy, which Dinos will jointly direct. Negotiations over rights are under way. While this is the Chapmans' first foray into directing fiction, Jake has previously made two documentaries.
One, part of a Channel 4 series for The Art Show, re-examined the place of contemporary art, posing questions such as "Why is Tracey Emin's unmade bed art and your bed is not?"
News that the Chapman brothers are directing a comedy will come as no surprise to those familiar with their art, which shows plenty of black humour that, at times, crosses the boundary into the grotesque.
In 2003, the brothers created Insult to Injury, in which they altered Goya etchings by adding funny faces. They also produced a series of mannequins of children with genitalia in place of facial features, whilst their work, Great Deeds against the Dead, showed dismembered corpses hanging from a tree. In a similar piece, the corpses were shown decaying with clowns' noses on their skulls. Another sculpture, Death, featured two sex dolls head to toe on top of each other.
They also created a sculpture of miniature Nazi figures in the shape of a swastika.
The Chapman brothers are not the first YBAs to pick up a movie camera. Sam Taylor-Wood's short drama, Love You More, was screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival this year. She is in the process of adapting a Julie Myerson novel for the screen, as well as developing a feature film about opera with Channel 4.
A source said: "It's an idea that came from her love of the opera. She used to work backstage at Covent Garden opera house as a student, where you hear the tannoys and see the rehearsals."
Cinema history reveals that when visual artists turn their hand to movies, they tend to make a runaway success of it. Salvador Dali's surrealist fantasy, Un Chien Andalou, instantly became the stuff of cinema legend. Julian Schnabel's screen adaptation of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was hailed as a work of genius and Steve McQueen has just picked up the Camera D'Or, one of the biggest accolades at the Cannes Film Festival, for his directorial debut, Hunger.
Artists who turned film-maker
The father of pop art made more than 60 movies, including Sleep, which showed the poet John Giorno sleeping for six hours, and Blow Job, a single, continuous shot of a man supposedly receiving oral sex. His most popular film, Chelsea Girls, was made in 1966.
The Spanish surrealist's art was heavily influenced by his love of cinema. A collaboration with the director Luis Bunuel resulted in L'Age d'Or and Un Chien Andalou. The latter contains the infamous scene of an eye being slashed by a razor.
Directed Love You More, a contender for the short film Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Now also hopes to direct a film with Channel 4 based in an opera house, as well as the feature film, The Story Of You, adapted from Julie Myerson's novel.
One of America's most prominent visual artists, Schnabel's films include Basquiat, a biopic of the painter, and Before Night Falls, which gave the Spanish actor Javier Bardem his Academy Award-nominated role as the gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas. He also directed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was nominated for four Academy Awards and received the award for best director at last year's Cannes Film Festival.
* Steve McQueen
The Turner Prize-winning artist's debut film, Hunger, told the story of the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, who died in the Maze prison, and won the Camera d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. McQueen describes the film as being about "people in a situation of extreme pressure".
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