Robin Williams has become a curator. New art website Paddle8 has partnered with the actor and his son, Zak Williams, co-founder of NYC’s Mallick Williams & Co gallery, to launch an online gallery exhibit called Taking Sides. The father and son selected 17 pieces that look at how contemporary artists address the topics of war, violence, authority and politics in their work.
Why war themes? “My father and I share a deep love for military history. We’re pretty nerdy about this type of stuff. He reads books on military strategy. It’s something we enjoy connecting on,” says Zak Williams, 28, a Columbia Business School MBA student who founded his art gallery in 2010 with his wife Alex Mallick, who formerly worked for a hedge fund. Robin Williams is also a frequent entertainer for the USO and has made numerous trips to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The show though is far from a literal look at war. It includes voices from around the globe, including Iraq, Iran, Israel, China, Pakistan, Great Britain, Canada and the United States. The pieces, which range from $2,500-$50,000, include works by such established names as Jenny Holzer and Aaron Young and up-and-coming artists.
They include Trevor Paglen, who does long-exposure photography of military installations, and Ori Gersht. “He explodes vases and bouquets and then captures them in a moment,” says Zak Williams.
“This exhibition is a way to examine the way contemporary artists consider our current understanding of war as it has been packaged and marketed through meditation of pop culture and mass media,” said Robin Williams in a statement.
Robin Williams not only collects contemporary art but also military memorabilia. “He has samurai swords and Russian machine guns and sniper rifles and anti-tank rifles,” says Zak Williams. “It’s all sort of interesting stuff. Lots of camo stuff and swords, daggers, pistols, all sorts of figurines and emblems. He keeps them in what I call the war room, it’s about the size of a midsize bedroom.”
The innovatively designed Paddle8 website launched in May of this year. It works directly with galleries and sells the pieces by consignment. The curators are paid a consulting fee but do not “partake in the profit-sharing,” says Zak Williams. The exhibition continues until October 25.
Paddle8, which requires users to apply for membership, is one of a number of online art commerce sites that have launched this year, including Blacklots and Art.sy. “What distinguishes us is that we are not an auction site. We’re a curatorial platform. If you are interested in a piece you can communicate with the gallery directly through Paddle8 and all of our sales can be conducted completely online,” says Andrea Hill, managing editor of Paddle8.