Jan 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm
With Michael Sládek
“An entertaining reverie on the concept and addictive nature of celebrity”
“The biggest surprise of the festival…Con Artist blew me away.”
-We Are Movie Geeks
Con Artist has screened at the Tribeca, Hamptons, Rome, Austin, Starz Denver, Glasgow and Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.
Con Artist by Michael Sládek
84 min., 2009
A character-driven dark comedy, Con Artist examines themes of art, celebrity, fortune, fakery and the dark side of American culture through the controversial and contradictory persona of “business artist” Mark Kostabi. The son of Estonian immigrants, Kostabi was initially seen as an exceptional talent and, upon his move to New York City, soon became a successful art star, rocketing to international fame and fortune during the 1980s art / punk / hip hop boom. He accomplished this with a gimmick: to mass-produce, sign, and sell thousands of paintings per year, conceived of and executed not by himself, but by a revolving stable of hired hands supported by an energetic PR team. Eventually, his brazen Capitalistic greed, overt self-promotion and outrageous behavior caused a remarkable fall from grace during the 1990’s recession.
Today, having built back his business but not his fame, Kostabi oversees a staff which pumps out and sells approximately one thousand paintings per year out of his “Kostabi World” studio in New York City. Over the course of this highly energetic comedy, Kostabi’s indefatigable obsession with getting back on top manifests itself in bizarre attempts to regain prominence and find happiness, equating fame with finding true love. Now approaching fifty, still single and an art world pariah, Kostabi tries to woo women, receives a high profile commission from the Vatican, sells paintings on Italian TV, speaks embarassingly at a “Master’s Tea” at Yale, and stars in a self-financed public access TV game show wherein celebrities compete to title “his” paintings. Finally, as he tries to gain control of the film itself, Kostabi’s self-conscious mechinations strip bare his essential narcissicm, illuminating darkly comic insights not only in to his own ego but in to America’s celebrity and money obsessed culture.
Michael Sládek (Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Co-Editor) makes long and short-form projects via his Brooklyn-based company Plug Ugly Films Inc. His first narrative feature film Devils Are Dreaming premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival in 2004, won an award at Dances With Films and went on to screen in numerous festivals worldwide. His music videos have also screened and won awards at numerous festivals. He directs, produces, shoots and edits web and industrial videos for various clients while working freelance in film, video and live events. He is the New York representative for SAGIndie, is a designer and animator. The former Personal Assistant to author Jamaica Kincaid, Sládek was also MTV News Talent Coordinator and Floor Producer for MTV News 1515. Sládek grew up working in the live theatre as an actor and director and is a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild. He grew up in Denver, CO and Newport Beach, CA and is a proud dropout of many mediocre colleges. He is currently developing original fiction narratives and plans to be in production on his third feature in 2010.