The Rocky and Rambo actor-turned-artist Sylvester Stallone has unveiled a series of paintings he created nearly 60 years ago and would sell for $5 in order to pay for the bus fare to school and back. The works—part of an exhibition which opened at the Osthaus Museum in Hagen, Germany over the weekend—have been hidden in Stalone’s wardrobe ever since.
Speaking at the press conference on 4 December, the artist, who turned 75 earlier this year, says he used to buy cheap canvases for $2 and then sell them on for $5. “I had a few left, but I’m sort of embarrassed by [them] because the style was quite different […], so I had them in my closet,” Stalone says. “There was no pretext or scholarly schooling, it was just paint flowing on canvas with a lot of emotion, and they haven’t been seen close to 55-60 years. They’ve been in my closet, so it’s great to take them out.”
The exhibition spans these early works, which he signed “Mike Stallone”, to paintings made today. Several self-portraits are also included such as Finding Rocky (1975), which predates the movie script and the film. As Mathias Rastorfer, the chief executive and co-owner of Galerie Gmurzynska, which has represented the artist for a decade, puts it: “Stallone is a very visual person, his ideas form visually and painting has been the most personal intricate part of him. When skill and imagination meet longevity it is the real deal.”
Although art fuelled his cinematic work, for financial reasons, Stallone was forced to choose writing and then acting over painting, quickly making his fortune in the movie industry. After filming Rocky, Stallone lived for a period in Miami, where he acquired works by Francis Bacon and Monet. Other artists in his collection include Picasso, Gerhard Richter or Anselm Kiefer.
As for the market for his own works, Stallone is yet to hit the big time. Prices at auction range from $1,500 to $3,500, though Rastorfer says prices for past works can “go up to the tens of thousands”, depending on the subject matter. Given that Stallone is worth an estimated $400m, such values are unlikely to bother the artist, who laments to the Hollywood Reporter: “You know, maybe I should have been a painter. It sure would have meant a lot less stress.”