Sofia Coppola Nominates Frank Benson

“I loved his sculpture of a chocolate fountain,” says filmmaker Sofia Coppola, who came upon the New York–based artist Frank Benson’s work last October at the Frieze Art Fair in London. “It was so well done. I had never heard of him before, and I’m curious to see more.” Coppola
is speaking about one of Benson’s stainless-steel sculptures that mimics the dessert fountains
routinely found on buffet tables—their resemblance so striking that the highly polished brown finish looks as if liquid chocolate is cascading down its tiers. “I had Brancusi in mind,” the 32-year-old artist says of rendering the rich fluidity in solid form. “I’ve basically taken an object that is supposed to look still but is actually moving and made it still. The funny thing is, the expectation
of being fooled is still there.” This isn’t the first time Benson has played a visual trick on a visual trick: At the 2005 Art Basel Miami Beach he exhibited Human Statue, a hauntingly realistic life-size fiberglass sculpture of a nude man painted in silver and flesh tones, reminiscent of the street performers who stand like statues. “It was great to do at a fair with a party atmosphere,” he says, “because a lot of people actually thought it was a real human being. Some left money.” Benson is currently working on another human sculpture—this time a woman with clothes on. It’s no surprise that the artist once studied under a master of pop-cultural trickery, Charles Ray, at UCLA for graduate art school, and even assisted Ray after classes in his studio. Benson says, “He was really inspiring, as were other West Coast artists, like Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy.”