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“You know, maybe I should have been a painter,” said Sylvester Stallone on Friday as he opened the largest-ever restrospective of his paintings. “It sure would have meant a lot less stress.”
The Rocky, Rambo and Expendables star made the trip to Hagen in western Germany for the opening of Sylvester Stallone: The Magic of Being, an exhibition at the Osthaus Museum Hagen, which runs which from Saturday through Feb. 20. Stallone has had a few public exhibits of his art in the past, including a 2013 exhibition at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg and a 2015 show at the Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain in Nice, France. But the Hagen show is by far the most comprehensive, tracing Stallone’s entire oeuvre, from the late ’60s until today.
“It’s an amazing honor to have my work hanging here, next to some of the greatest artists in the world,” said Stallone. “This gallery world is still a very new world for me.”
Stallone began painting at an early age, inspired by the experimental work of “action painters” like Jackson Pollack and Willem de Kooning, whose influence can be clearly seen in the earlier works on display here, which he signed “Mike Stallone.” It was only when these first works didn’t sell — “I used to sell them for $5 to get bus fare” he recalled — that Stallone turned to writing and began his acting career.
But there are strong thematic links between Stallone’s acting and his art. Several of his paintings are Rambo and Rocky themed, exploring his most famous on-screen characters and the impact they have had on popular culture. Rocky, in fact, was a painting before it was a film. In his 1975 work Finding Rocky, Stallone explored the character of an underdog boxer who gets one chance to make it big.
“The elephant in the room is, why show celebrity art? Is it about the art or about the celebrity?” says Mathias Rastorfer of the Gmurzynska Gallery in St. Moritz, who helped curate the Hagen exhibit. “I remember people asking the same question when we first showed Karl Lagerfeld’s art. Now every art museum in the world wants to show Largerfeld’s work. … It will be the same with Stallone.”
Despite the belated recognition of his painting talents, Stallone has no plans to give up his day job. He recently released his director’s cut of Rocky IV [Rocky vs. Drago] and is currently shooting the fourth Expendables film.
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