The actor's latest role is as a shop assistant but art's tacit link to commerce is centuries old.
Every gallery is a shop
Actor and artist James Franco is to man a pop-up store in Mayfair as the Christmas shopping season gets going to raise funds for a south London art gallery.
He's played a hiker trapped under a rock in Danny Boyle's flick 127 Hours, so standing behind a counter should be a doddle.
The shop is called House of Voltaire, and it will occupy a space in Adam's Row, Mayfair, in aid of the art gallery Studio Voltaire.
Other celebrities are also working in it, and artists including Mark Titchner and Pablo Bronstein have designed goods for this upmarket art boutique.
What is it about art and shopping? They have a long history together.
House of Voltaire claims inspiration from the Omega Workshops, which opened in 1913 (hey, that's another thing that happened then – see my last blog ...) in Fitzroy Square, London, and sold the art made in its studios in a public showroom.
Much earlier, the 18th-century painter Watteau created a beautiful shop sign for an art shop that still survives and is revered as an artistic masterpiece.
In 1961 the American pop artist Claes Oldenburg opened The Store in New York, a shop that sold humble, everyday stuff including food and clothes.
But everything, from cakes to underwear, was made of roughly moulded plaster, gaudily painted.
In 1963, in the same spirit, the young Gerhard Richter exhibited his works in a furniture shop in Dusseldorf.
The exhibition was called Living with Pop: A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism.
Three decades on, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas opened their shop.
Shops are exhibition spaces.
They display arrays of goods in seductive installations.
They are getting ever-more artful in how they do so and the fashion ateliers which House of Voltaire emulates, or travesties, are temples of modern consumption.
So it is no wonder that artists are fascinated by the shop as an alternative way of showing and selling art.
Such events also parody the art market.
Art galleries are shops that pretend not to be shops, that claim cultural authority.
Oldenburg and Richter back in the day were mocking this pretension by selling art in ordinary, actual shops.
So go and buy an arty silk scarf from James Franco – it's good for a London gallery and who knows, perhaps it is even an art performance in its own right.
ArtJames FrancoChristmasJonathan Jonesguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.
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