Jay-Z’s “Picasso Baby” is Making Music Videos Relevant Again
About a month ago, hip-hop megastar Jay-Z performed the song “Picasso Baby” off of his new album Magna Carta… Holy Grail (yes, the ellipsis perplexes me as much as it should you) at New York’s Pace Gallery to serve as the raw footage for the song’s music video.
Maybe you heard about this event, maybe you didn’t, but New York definitely did. The video, which premiered Friday evening, features appearances from a tabloid’s worth of famous faces. Even if you’re not a fan of the music, it’s still fun to go through and pick out the celebs. Give it a watch below and see if you can spot Judd Apatow, Wale, Rosie Perez, Adam Driver (of Girls fame), Jemima Kirke (100% super-babe artist, also of Girls fame), Alan Cumming, and, of course, Jay-Z himself at the center of it all (he’s pretty hard to miss).
I cringed when Jay tried to explain that what he’s doing is performance art, but I have to admit that it’s a really fun video. The whole thing parodies real performance artist Marina Abramovic’s famed piece “The Artist is Present,” in which she sat at MoMA every day from March 14 to May 31, 2010, and allowed anybody–one at a time–to sit across from her for as long as they wished–Lady Gaga actually showed up at one point (remember her?). Abramovic’s piece resulted in a lot of tears, maybe some boredom, and probably frustration; none of those emotions could be found at Pace during Jay-Z’s parallel piece. Dancers did what you would expect dancers to do at a Jay-Z performance, there was a female vocal intermission, some lucky kid even got to wear Jay’s chain. But in the middle of all the celebrities and excitement were some contemporary art hot-shots (obviously not to say that they aren’t celebrities), some of whom we’ve already talked about on Artsnapper. Below is the rundown on the famous faces you may have missed.
Occupation: Performance artist
Famous for: “Seven Easy Pieces” and “The Artist is Present”
Naturally Abramovic showed to give her blessing to Jay-Z’s apparent redux of “The Artist is Present,” and it looks like she was having a really great time. She states at the end of the video that she’s happy to see artists cross into different media (“Music is the most immaterial form of art”), but I think we both know that nothing will ever compare to her original. picasso baby
Famous for: Being a boundary-pushing motherf#@ker
I mentioned Serrano previously in an article about transgressive art, but you may have heard of him even if you aren’t a regular Artsnapper reader. He’s the guy who takes photographs of crucifixes and other idols submerged in fluids like blood and urine and then sells them for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He almost looks like he could actually be a pretty happy, friendly guy.
Famous for: Creating album art for Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
When Jay-Z writes you into a song about art, you know you’re big. Another name that should be familiar to Artsnapper readers, Condo did a few paintings for Kanye West’s fifth studio album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. But Condo was famous way before he got the Kanye bump; after all, he did help revive painting as a legitimate form of art back in the 80s.
Famous for: Basically helping found the Conceptual Art movement
At 71 years young, Lawrence Weiner is totally down with the hip-hop music. Okay, maybe it’s just when it collides with the art world, but I was so excited to see Mr. Weiner and his big beard show up for Jay-Z’s performance. If anyone can make me believe that what Jay did at Pace is actually art, he’d be the one to do it. The man could probably talk me into thinking the sky is green. Seriously, check out any interview with him, because he has an excellent voice and a beautiful vocabulary. You’ll understand what I’m talking about. Picasso baby
Famous for: Making art out of filth
The crazy-looking old-ish lady dancing around toward the beginning of the clip? That’s Marilyn Minter, and she’s kind of a big deal. She made her name turning porn into art, and she hasn’t stopped using her art to elevate the (sometimes literally) filthier elements of society since. Even when dirt and grime are the focus of a piece, Marilyn finds a way to make it supremely erotic.
Occupation: Art Dealer
Famous for: Being Partner and Executive Director of Gering & Lopez Gallery
Okay, so Gering isn’t an artist, but I HAD to include her. She runs an ultra-important gallery in Chelsea, has been running shows for decades, and is a total cutie pie. She’s the fashionable, artsy granny I wish I had, and she totally threw off Jay’s flow.
If you stayed tuned for the credits, you might have noticed that there are quite a few more artists than those I’ve just listed. I know, I know, I skipped some people, I’m a terrible person. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important, though; actually, almost all of the artists in “Picasso Baby” are huge stars in the contemporary art world, so I recommend you either look into some of them yourself, or leave a comment below so I can fill you in. Did you spot anybody you love? Wondering about the guy in the cow head? On another note, how do you feel about Jay-Z calling his video performance art? I have some pretty strong feelings of my own, so let’s discuss.
Bonus photo: This kid has more money around his neck than he could ever understand.
- A Moment in Cubism: Jay Z Declares Himself Picasso (complex.com)
- Watch Jay Z’s ‘Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Fim’ (VIDEO) (buzzworthy.mtv.com)
- Hot Sugar: Process Art Becoming Music (Video) (artsnapper.com)
- From Rolex to Rothko: Should Rappers Make Music About Art? (artsnapper.com)
- Magna Carta Holy Grail and a Faulty Partnership (artsnapper.com)
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