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We Talked To The Curator Organizing A Bill Murray-Themed Art Exhibition

"The Murray Affair" is a giant, crowd-sourced art show entirely dedicated to the man behind Steve Zissou and Peter Venkman.

Lead image by Kate O'Hara

When it comes to the Internet, a variety of celebrities have become ingrained in our Reddit-addled, meme-ready collective conscious—as popular figures like Chuck Norris or Nic Cage are now staples in the virality canon. While there's a massive layer of irony undercutting, say, "Caging," some celebrities-as-memes stand out as being subject to pure admiration. Bill Murray is one such celebrity.


Who doesn't like Bill Murray? Whether we're talking about his iconic movie roles (how many Zissou hats do you see every Halloween these days?) or his odd antics—likecrashing bachelor parties and wedding photoshoots—he's an A-lister-cum-everyman who people simply want to hang with… and watch Ghostbusters. 

So when we heard about the impending Bill Murray-themed gallery exhibition The Murray Affair, a mega-Murray homage that's going down at the SF Public Works artspace in San Francisco on August 8th, we naturally had to find out more. Organized by Ezra Croft, a Burning Man veteran and DJ who works at Bed Bath & Beyond to pay the bills, the group show will be a "an ode to Bill Murray through a narrative art process," including over 100 pieces of crowd-sourced fan art.

The event's website elaborates on Croft's inspiration behind the event:

Why Bill Murray? Why an art show? Why Bill Murray you may ask? Why an art show? In a recent interview, when asked, "What's it like being so awesome?" His response was "Well, nothing prepared me for being this awesome. It's kind of a shock. It's kind of a shock to wake up every morning and be bathed in this purple light." We should aspire to live like Bill: Be awesome, have a light heart, enjoy the little things, and to always strive for excellence. An art show is just a way you can come experience that with friends!

Though Murray's awesomeness is pretty undeniable, we wanted to know more about what to expect from this exhibition and got on the phone with Croft to talk all things Bill Murray.


The Creators Project: Can you describe to me what exactly is The Murray Affair?

Ezra Croft: It’s an homage to Bill Murray through a narrative art process. With Murray, a lot of people think you’re riding off the coattails of his fame, but I don’t feel like that. This is taking something idyllic and the concept of him as a public figure and we're rooting off of it and make art out of it. It’s fun. He’s an interesting guy. He has a lot of personas that people can interpret. We got to watch him develop from the 70s up until now, and we've loved Murray throughout all of it.

What inspired the idea to have a Bill Murray-themed art exhibition?I

I have a Murray tattoo on my shoulder-—the image The Chive uses. I always thought he would make a great concept for an art show, but with this, people are so enthusiastic about him that it’s always going to exceed expectations.

This show is not about technical art skill, it’s about the environment around the show. I was thinking back to Andy Warhol and the height of his power and how exclusive and even specific his shows were. I wanted the hype and awesomeness of that, but to include everyone and bond over a universally-loved topic.

What makes Murray so awesome? What about him does everyone love? Why is Bill Murray so meme-able?

He’s a pretty normal guy. He’s not next-level funny. He’s just someone you want to hang around with—like that friend of a friend who you would never mind having over. He has his foot in America's spotlight with movies but in a way where a lot of people can relate to him. Plus, I like his movies. Even his tiny roles in things like The Grand Budapest Hotel was amazing. He can do no wrong—even when he plays the bad guy, like in Mad Dog and Glory, you still like him.


"I Am BMF" by Eric Sokoloff

Can you tell us about some of the best Murray art you’ve seen so far? What about the strangest?

We’ve been looking a lot on Instagram and all over the Internet for submissions. There’s a guy name named Eric Sokoloff in West Virginia and he paints with a very interpretational style but it’s super awesome. Like, he’ll put The Dude [from The Big Lebowski] in The Never Ending Story.

We’ve been starting to turn down some Steve Zissou fan art. There's too much of it and we want people to explore all his film roles. But one person painted all of the members of Congress as Steve Zissous which was interesting.

I’m trying to encourage people to mash some things up. Maybe imaging him as a historical figure. Maybe put other people in his role. We want to people to experiment.

How many pieces will be on display? Is any of it for sale?

We’re expecting over 100 pieces. I want to pack the walls neck to neck with Bill Murray art. We have a submission process, but we don’t mind if someone’s not a trained artist. We just want to see compassion and care put into this.

The work is for sale and the artists can name their own price. We take 15% for us to pay for the costs of the event, but we want this art to be in people’s houses and for people to preserve what a good time they had at the show.

Which other Murray movies do you think will get repped the most at this exhibition?


There’s a lot of Ghostbusters. A lot of Life Aquatic. His Wes Anderson stuff gets a lot of love—that’s where he made his second wind in a lot of ways.

Will the exhibition opening include any Murray-themed performances or hors d'ourvres?

Definitely. We’re setting up a mini golf thing outside and I'm trying to build an animatronic gopher a la Caddyshack. We think the event will be packed, so there should be something to do outside. There will also be a Ghostbusters-themed burlesque that I'm excited about and even a drink called The Slimer. It will be an all-inclusive night. There will be the ethos of Murray everywhere.

Image by Jacqueline Mark Bello

This is a follow-up to your Nic Cage exhibition, right? What about these celebrities makes them perfect for a fan art exhibition? Who else would you like to dedicate an exhibition to?

Yes it was in April and it exploded. Cage was even on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and he said my name. We’re doing a follow-up LA show in July. It’s interesting because Cage has this kitschy, Internet presence—not like Murray—but we got people to make really good art out of it. There were piece with religious tropes—like one oil painting of The Last Supper where Nic Cage was everyone in the image. We got people to make great, serious stuff. I wasn’t doing it to be funny or mean, I wanted to explore the topic.

As far of other celebrities, we have our eyes set on Christopher Walken. It’s not just an arbitrary decision. We have to think if people will get behind this.


What do you think Bill Murray would say about this exhibition? Have you invited him?

I would hope he’d be a little freaked out at first and say something liek “ohhhh this is weird.” Imagine if you went to an art show that was totally focused on you! But if he crashed the party, I would crap my pants.

We've tried to invite him—including letters to his South Carolina house and messages to his manager—but he's very elusive. Eventually we’re going to paste 10-foot-high Bill Murray heads all over San Francisco. We'll cover the city in Murray and hopefully he'll get word of this.

Image by Dan Toro

For more on The Murray Affair, visit the project's website, as well as SF Public Work's site.


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