JR and Robert de Niro Are Working on a Documentary About the Actor’s Father

French artist JR has had quite the year. From installing work amidst the Pyramids of Giza to transforming the facade of Paris’ Opera Garnier, each of his projects are monumental in scale, but touch on deeply intimate subject matter.

His upcoming project is no different. Unveiled at the latest Art Basel in Miami Beach, the elusive French artist spoke with acclaimed actor and Tribeca Film Festival co-founder, Robert De Niro, about how they’ve been working in tandem to create a documentary on the actor’s late father, Robert De Niro Sr.

Recognized for his largely gestural compositions of daily life, De Niro Sr. is hailed as a key member of the New York School of painters, alongside visionaries, such as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. He recently was the subject of a 2019 monograph by Rizzoli, which chronicled his 50 year career in the arts and poetry.

The forthcoming documentary, entitled The Past Goes Fast, is executive produced by Aimé Leon Dore and was informed by the many diary entries De Niro Sr. kept in his studio, which have been untouched the past 30 years since his death. “I’ve been through those journals. There’s so much in there. It’s so deep; it’s like reading something from an artist that was struggling a lot with self-esteem and being recognized,” JR said during the Tribeca Storytellers event at Art Basel.

During his formative years, De Niro Jr. was unaware that his dad was gay and in hindsight, views these diary entries as a portal to trace his family’s history. “I think he was very locked up and found it hard to communicate with people in a certain way,” De Niro said. During the filming of the doc, De Niro was reflecting on his own kids who have not seen much of their grandfather’s work. “I wanted them to know what a great artist he was to me and a genuine artist.”

The film is still in the works, but you can preview a short segment of The Past Goes Fast above.
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