It’s only natural that the world’s most beautiful people want to be surrounded by beautiful objects. In this spirit, there is a longstanding tradition of crossover between the worlds of art and celebrity. Today, this tendency holds just as true as it did back when the Medici family of Florence commissioned half of the Renaissance.
As per culture’s trickle-down rule, so elegantly explained by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, entertainment has long drawn inspiration from fine art, though of course, the train runs both ways. Half a decade after Andy Warhol silk-screened Hollywood onto the art world’s canvas for good, artists like Lauren Greenfield and Marilyn Minter continue to dissect celebrity culture. At the same time, pop culture’s reigning figures pop up all the time in the art world as collectors, muses, art students and lovers alike. Here’s a quick round up of today’s hottest celebrities who dabble (or have plunged head-first) into the art world.
In her sixty years on this earth (happy late birthday, queen!) the legend that gave us Vogue and Like a Prayer has amassed an art collection as impressive as her discography: Picasso, Dennis Hopper, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, Damien Hirst and Fernand Léger all decorate her home.
But Madonna didn’t wait to become a multimillionaire to dive into the art world; back in the 80s, she ran deep with New York’s downtown art crowd. Polaroid artist Maripol styled her Like A Virgin album cover, and she even briefly dated Jean Michel Basquiat before either of them were household names—when they broke up, he made her give back all of his paintings. More recently, Madonna has dabbled in visual art, creating a projection called Secretprojectrevolution for Gagosian Gallery in 2013, Her ties to the gallery date back to the 80s, when she once drove Larry Gagosian himself around Los Angeles while visiting the city with Basquiat.
Laura Collins, An Olsen Twin Hiding Behind a Blackberry, 2015.
One half of the century’s most intriguing twin set, Mary Kate is one of the rare few child stars who managed to hold onto their dignity and their sanity, her transformation from Full House to the powerhouse entrepreneur of The Row and Elizabeth and James basically qualifying her for the ranks of life-as-performance-artists, at least in this author’s humble opinion.
But her impeccable taste doesn’t end with fashion; Mary Kate also owns an enviable art collection including Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Nobuyushi Araki and Thomas Ruff. Art has also colored her love life in the past; Mary Kate has been linked romantically to artists Nate Lowman and Max Snow. And today, it’s safe to bet that one of her rare public outings with her husband, Olivier Sarkozy (yes, those Sarkozy) will be to a Sotheby’s auction. Rounding off her neat collector-girlfriend-muse trio, Mary Kate was also the inspiration for Laura Collins’ series of paintings called “The Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi,” which shows pictures of exactly that.
No one should be surprised that Queen Bey, who slays everything she touches, also has the holy grail of art collections: Andy Warhol, Richard Prince, Basquiat, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, George Condo, Laurie Simmons and Ed Rusca decorate and Jay-Z’s home—and don’t forget about the two Damien Hirst paintings commissioned just for them.
A true guardian angel to us all, Bey has also been known to promote young, up-and-coming artists (including many artists of color); Awol Erizku blew up with Beyoncé’s pregnancy announcement shoot (the most-liked photo on Instagram at the time, so your only excuse for missing it is if you were literally off the planet, say, on a Mars expedition), and most recently, Tyler Mitchell has gotten a boatload of publicity from the historic Vogue September cover shoot.
The pop power couple is also known to frequent museums and galleries, at home in New York and on their jet-setting adventures, both time-honored—the “Apes***” video has the Carters dancing through the Louvre, paying their respects to the greats and taking their rightful place in the canon alongside the Mona Lisa and David’s Napoleon—and contemporary. They’ve been spotted checking out work by Kerry James Marshall, Kara Walker and Sadie Barnette, and Bey’s own work, the music video for Hold Up, has been likened to Pipilotti Rist’s art. Bey’s other art world inspirations include Basquiat, whose “broad strokes” she searches for in her music. And who can forget the Queen’s homage to Frida Kahlo for Halloween 2014?
With so much of her own work edging into performance art territory (remember the meat dress?), it’s obvious that Lady Gaga is a not-so-closeted art aficionado, collecting work by artists like Leigh Bowery and Francesco Vezzoli. Gaga also supports the Watermill Center, a self-described “laboratory for the arts and humanities” in the Hamptons.
But nowhere is Gaga’s art world sensibility more pronounced than on her concept album, ARTPOP. While the pop provocateur built her reputation on addictive Euro-disco-esque dance anthems skewering the seductions and traps of celebrity, ARTPOP delves deep into the art world proper—which makes sense, considering Gaga went to Tisch before she was Gaga and even penned a thesis on Spencer Tunick and Damien Hirst.
Far more than a wildly misunderstood masterpiece and a killer cardio playlist, ARPOP is stacked with smart if not subtle art references, both classical and contemporary. (Disclaimer: Ever since I became a running joke at my first internship when I didn’t have the good sense to lie and say Mozart when asked what I was bumping in my headphones to while I typed up reports about Chinese trade like the office drone I was—it was ARTPOP, of course—I’ve felt a disproportionate compulsion to protect this national treasure from haters and ignoramuses. That said, facts remain facts, and journalistic integrity compels me to speak my truth about this radiant beacon on the landscape of millennial pop culture.)
From the cover, a collage of Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Jeff Koon’s Gazing Ball, designed by Koons himself, to the copious visual references in the music videos, to the ArtRave launch party, a $3 million, unsponsored extravaganza featuring work by Inez & Vinoodh, Marina Abramovic and Jeff Koons, ARTPOP packs an entire art history textbook into 59 transcendent minutes. Like so many visionaries, Gaga’s true genius was overlooked on this one, but I have faith that the world will eventually catch up with its alien pop princess and ARTPOP will go down in history as a cult classic. Until then, catch me ellipticaling to “Fashion!” while the rest of you are inexplicably bumping Post Malone.
Though she hasn’t established herself as an art collector of the same caliber as the other ladies on this list (yet!), Gomez has been known to draw inspiration from her arty contemporaries. She has collaborated extensively her close friend Petra Collins, who shot her “Fetish” music video, and this summer, Selena appeared in Collins’ own project, dipping her toe in the horror genre pool for A Love Story, a short film that shows the pop star shaving her legs with a knife and rolling eyeballs around in her mouth. Anything in the name of art.
Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch. Cardi may be spending her newly earned cash on red bottoms and ‘Raris, not art, but she did stun at 2017 Art Basel when she performed at Jeremy Scott’s Moschino party, and the case could be made that her flamboyant social media presence represents an ultra-contemporary brand of performance art in a “life imitates art, art imitates life” sort of way. The stripper-turned-rapper also collaborated with celeb darling Petra Collins on the soft glam “Bartier Cardi” video this year, opening up speculation about further forays into the art world through future collaborations. In the meantime, I’m having a field day daydreaming about the artists would grace Cardi’s collection.
This summer, Kylie flexed her art muscles to her millions of Insta followers, revealing a collection that Australian Vogue gushed over but Artnet called “predictable” (I trust our readers can make their own judgments, but I’d just like to bring your attention to a Tracey Emin neon installation that reads “I Can’t Believe How Much You Love Me”). Perhaps the one art item in Kylie’s Calabasas lair that hints at originality of taste is a Bettina Rheims coffee table book, though who knows how much time Kylie has actually spent perusing the French photographer’s portraits between a hectic schedule of mirror selfies and lip kit tutorials.
More intriguing is Kylie’s model sister’s collection. Much like Kendall herself, her art is more subdued on the surface but ultimately has more layers for the unpacking. Kendall’s Tracey Emin is an edgier version of her sister’s: her neon spells out the dimensions of the artist’s ex-boyfriend’s penis with the caption “glad to hear you’re a happy girl.” Jenner even proved on an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians that she’s familiar with the backstory of the piece, so we’re willing to give her the benefit of the doubt about the level of authenticity of her art collecting pursuits. Her collection also includes some Lauren Greenfield shots, somewhat ironic given Greenfield’s habit of pointing her lens at the gaudy excess of the superwealthy, including a young Kim K.
Still, we should cut the Jenner girls some slack. Clearly, they’re trying (you’re doing great, sweetie!) and let’s not forget that both of these ladies have only been alive for a couple of decades, most have which have been overshadowed by E!’s omnipresent lens, and they don’t have the benefit of an art school education to guide them in their artistic pursuits. That said, we can only hope that the youngest members of the Kardashian clan will one day put their massive fortunes and clout to good use and, perhaps with the help of a savvy art advisor, continue to refine their artistic sensibilities to branch out into the world of contemporary and emerging art. After all, a single Instagram story could take an unknown artist and make him world-famous, and what better defense against “famous for being famous” accusations than to use that fame for an altruistic purpose like championing young creatives? If you read this, Kendall and Kylie, know that I believe in you and pray you’ll use your powers for good.
Text by Katya Lopatko
Images via Curbed, The Cut, ArtNet, Vogue, Dazed, Starcasm, Racked and Pinterest