See JR's Robert De Niro film in New York next week
The French artist will stage a preview screening of Ellis as part of his appearance at the New Yorker Festival
A little over a year ago the French artist JR was to install works in the abandoned Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, in Upper New York Bay. The Island's facilities served as a gateway for many would-be Americans during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, processing, at its height in 1907 over a million immigrants. Most gained entry to the the New World, though two percent of Ellis's arrivals were denied entry to the United States, often due to their poor health.
JR's Unframed – Ellis Island, brought those unfortunates back to life, by posting vintage photographs of the patients and staff of the island’s hospital onto the derelict walls of the facility. Yet, as with so many of his works, the project did not end there. JR returned to the project with a short cinematic project, Ellis, which will be shown as part of his New Yorker Festival talk, on Sunday 4 October at the Gramercy Theatre, 127 E. 23rd St, in Manhattan.
The film stars Robert De Niro, and was written by the Oscar-winning writer Eric Roth, better known for his work on Forrest Gump and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. However, this short work is no Hollywood fantasy. “It’s a fiction, that slowly connects to the reality,” JR explains. “I asked Robert De Niro to play an immigrant that’s been [to Ellis Island] and never got accepted, and ended up being a ghost in this island. You see things from his point of view, telling his story and it slowly connects to what happens today.”
In short, it is a remarkably prescient work, from an artist whose social ambitions go far beyond simple street installations. You can order tickets for the talk, which will be conducted by the New Yorker's art director Françoise Mouly, here. For greater insight into this important artist, order a copy of our comprehensive new monograph, JR: Can Art Change The World? here. For more on Robert De Niro's career, meanwhile, get this book.