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ARTS ISSUE: Musicians adorn themselves with art history

Posted on December 5, 2013 | by Alex Greenberger


Last year, Kanye West showed up to a concert wearing a hoodie with Caravaggio’s Baroque painting “Entombment of Christ” on it, and nobody thought twice about it. Looking back on that sweatshirt, it seems more like a prophetic footnote in music history than just another fashionable outfit selection choice.

This July became one of the biggest months for art history. First, there was Jay-Z’s now-famous “Picasso Baby” performance at Pace Gallery. For the six-hour long performance, Jay-Z danced with the art world’s hottest insiders — from performance artist Marina Abramovic, to beloved art critic Jerry Saltz, to “Girls” star Jemima Kirke — and even threw in a lyric about the “Mona Lisa.”

No less than three days later, Lady Gaga announced her own venture into the art world with “ARTPOP,” an album intended to “reverse Warholian odyssey.” The album includes collaborations with art star and provocateur Jeff Koons and, of course, Abramović.

The art and music worlds have always been in dialogue with each other, but art has never been used like this before. Now, pop stars are using art to be extravagant. In other words, art is the new bling for pop stars. It’s a means of promoting self-expression, but it’s also a way of showing wealth and status.

Using art as bling is not necessarily intended to be negative. Having dancers parade as Koons’ “Gazing Balls” during Lady Gaga’s VMAs performance is not meant to insult society. Instead, pop stars are interested in art in the same way film directors are interested in having musicians act in their movies — they like art for the artists’ talent, and they like the spectacle of big art. So until Miley Cyrus starts twerking on an Andy Warhol silkscreen and calls it performance art, art historians and music critics have nothing to worry about.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 5 print edition. Alex Greenberger is film editor. Email him at


Tatiana Baez

Assistant Managing Editor | A CAS junior, Tatiana is studying journalism, environmental science and politics. She’s a bomb editor, as well as the staff’s main source of entertainment because she sings along to every song after 12 a.m. She also writes about culture, science, technology and sex, and her work has been featured in VICE, Motherboard, Elite Daily, amNewYork and others. She enjoys eating Thai food, reading fiction and binge-watching Netflix.

And in case you were wondering how great she really is — “I just can’t get enough of Tatiana” is a direct quote from her EIC at WSN only moments ago.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

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