Artist Brian Griffiths is a loyal subject of “his Murrayness.” So much so that he has dedicated an exhibit to the film star entitled, Bill Murray: A Story of Distance, Size, and Sincerity, at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. Nine different miniature, shrine-like buildings, with styles ranging from a LA Mansion to a Scottish castle, are housed in the buildings spacious Level 4 gallery. Each tiny abode is equipped with furnished interiors as well as an image of Bill Murray’s face plastered onto the façade.
Each portrait captures a range of “Murrayisms,” explains Griffiths, who goes on to say in an interview with The Guardian that Murray is, “the global superstar, the guy-next-door, the anti-brand brand.” Griffiths enthusiastically adds that the actor is also, “emotionally brittle, the lost man, the free-wheeling guy, the uncle you-never-had, the dignified clown, the droll philosopher and the hopeful.” That’s a lot wrapped into one, especially for a fellow who is notoriously a “man of ironic distance,” as The Dissolve astutely observes.
Griffiths exhibit begs the question: why the cult fandom? Bill Murray fandom has touched the world of fine art and beyond. Curator Ezra Croft put on The Murray Affair in San Francisco in 2014, a collection of portraits and tributes to the actor including a picture of Murray as Napoleon.
Perhaps Griffiths’ show veers from unadulterated admiration into critique. Griffiths almost renders Murray larger than life, but upon closer inspection this depiction is a sham. Through creating shrunk down billboards, Griffiths mocks fame that appears imposing and larger than life, but is in reality a mere figurine. In this way, Griffiths simultaneously aggrandizes and shrinks Murray, immortalizing him and diminishing him all at the same time.
Then again, maybe he’s just seen everything from Ghostbusters to Groundhog Day, to Murray’s Coen brothers masterpieces.
The exhibition will be on view at Baltic Mill until February 28, 2016.