A s 21st-century movie stars go, few have had careers as varied or intriguing as Robert Pattinson. The British actor and producer — whose breakout role was the dishy teen wizard Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — became a global phenomenon when he signed on to play the leading role in the beloved Twilight vampire saga. The films broke box-office records, grossed billions and turned Pattinson, who played the translucent-skinned Edward Cullen, into a megastar.
And yet, when a blockbuster career beckoned, Pattinson defied Hollywood expectations and turned to the world of arthouse and independent cinema. Bold choices led him to work with some of film’s most celebrated auteurs, such as David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis), the Safdie brothers (Good Time) and Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse). Recently, he returned to the world of big budgets as the latest actor to portray Batman, Gotham City’s most famous son, in Matt Reeves’s dark and brooding interpretation.
Robert Pattinson on the Character of Curation
An indie darling, a blockbuster leading man and a superhero, Pattinson has displayed undeniable versatility and a willingness to take risks. This month, his latest endeavor is as guest curator of “Contemporary Curated,” coming to auction on 30 September at Sotheby’s New York. With selections including Willem de Kooning, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Anselm Kiefer, Pattinson relied on the same instinct with which he chooses his roles: by prioritizing works that evoke a sense of story and imagining how their different energies play off one another in the same gallery space. Connected through their sensuality, animalism and capacity to evoke a strong response in their viewer, Pattinson’s choices for Sotheby’s are as psychologically riveting as his on-screen career.
A long-time admirer of art, the actor has only recently begun to draw on that passion. For example, while working with Claire Denis on High Life, paintings by Marlene Dumas and Georg Baselitz provided unlikely reference points for the actor as he sought to convey the emotional complexity of this artful sci-fi. Pattinson is now honing his taste with his own burgeoning collection, including a large sculpture by Elsa Sahal and a small sketch by Giacometti (of whom he is a huge fan) — he describes collecting as “learning a language.”
“What I look for is when a piece has its own language,” Pattinson says. “It doesn’t necessarily feel like it just exists for its own sake and has a presence that hums with a bit of life. It has the ability to communicate with you on a kind of primordial level.”
As for his characters? “Bruce Wayne would definitely have a few Francis Bacons, and Cedric Diggory would get a Turner or some painting of the Thames,” Pattinson says. “Connie Nikas is a Cy Twombly kind of guy, and I think the Dauphin would have a Botero above his toilet.”
Robert Pattinson’s Picks
Willem de Kooning
“De Kooning can capture so much energy, and this work feels incredibly fresh, present and exciting. Looking closely, it is incredibly sensual and quite tasty. At this time de Kooning is still using the same set of tools, but he’s trying to create some kind of new form using the same framework as before. It represents an interesting period of transition.”
“I love sculptors’ sketches. There’s an energy to this work, a kind of dynamism, and Serra is just great at capturing movement. Up close, it’s just a completely different thing with an enormous level of detail to it. I love the shape of it, and it feels so much more dense and intricate, but still holds a lot of energy.”
“You can look at this painting and see Yiadom-Boakye is telling a story in color and texture, and you can really feel that there’s a past and a future to her paintings. There’s a kind of mystery to her work and an abundance of stories in them, but they all feel very generous. She creates these characters that feel like they’re kind of waiting for you, which is something I really like about them. I just want to have one in my house; that’s my main reaction: ‘Yeah, I want one of those.’”
“I recently discovered Houseago on Instagram, and I find there’s something about his work that feels like there’s a presence that’s looming behind you and you turn around and it’s kind of gone. To me, they all feel like phosphenes when you are rubbing your eyes and those cryptic images come up — there’s something about them where they’re slightly disconcerting and strange but fascinating.”
“I have known about Julie Mehretu’s giant paintings, but this is the first one on a smaller scale that I have seen. She’s so amazing at portraying magnitude and abundance, and I found this piece quite incredible because there is still a huge scope. I always imagined that certain paintings feel like they’re shot in slow-mo, like IMAX, where you can almost feel the splashes come up. I mean, it just feels so incredibly detailed and quite overwhelming. Mehretu is always very, very impressive.”
“I like a lot of Kiefer’s works. I was looking at a lot of different paintings in preparation for this, and a lot of his paintings tower over you, but it’s all-encompassing at the same time. I was looking at a lot of his different works and it kind of seems like they have a very intense, kind of viscous gravity.”
“There is a creaminess and sensuality to all of Figgis’s paintings, but also a poison at the same time. I was looking at a lot of her different work, and it kind of feels like you’re eating a cake and you chip your tooth on something in it and you can’t figure out exactly what chipped your tooth.”
Pattinson’s picks will be on view in “Contemporary Curated” at Sotheby’s New York from 23–29 September.