Kanye West is running for president, but did you know he has an impressive connection to the art world? Despite being most famous for his music career, in 1997 the rapper won a scholarship to attend Chicago’s American Academy of Art. Despite not finishing his artist studies, he has kept involved in the world, commissioning top artists to design his album covers and collaborating with artists in his fashion shows. In fact, his contributions to the arts have been well acknowledged, and in 2015 Ye received an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. So, read on to find out just how Kanye is connected to the art world!
The Album Covers
Kanye’s album artwork is pretty impressive. Let’s take it from the top.
In 2007, Kanye collabed with celeb-fave Takashi Murakami on the cover of his Graduation album. The colourful graphic is signature of Murakami’s playful style and is said to have taken years to complete.
Later in 2008, Kanye enlisted KAWS to designer the cover of 808s and Heartbreak, which consists of a broken heart held up by the doughy hands of KAWS’s signature characters.
Continuing the art-album trend, in 2010 Kanye brought in George Condo to design the artwork For My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Condo is famous for grotesque faces, some of which graced this album. And, Kanye being Kanye, he couldn’t have just one artwork, he had NINE instead.
The album cover for single XTCY was made by London-based painter Shadi Al-Attalh, who painted the Kardashian sisters for Ye. The image for the 2018 track is pretty iconic, and has each sister giving their fingers to the camera (painting).
The Music Videos
Kanye teamed up with Murakami again in 2009, who directed his music video Good Morning. The animated clip is pretty mad, so pretty standard for both Kanye and Murakami.
Kanye has just released new track Wash Us In The Blood, but did you know the music video was made by Arthur Jafa? The film addresses police violence killings, touching on the deaths of Ahmaud Abery and Breonna Taylor, while also including imagery of Kanye himself. A true work of art that makes a big comment on society. In fact, this isn’t the first time Ye worked with Jafa. Arthur Jafa’s video ‘Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death’, comments on the Black experience in America and includes footage of Obama singing Amazing Grace, his daughter’s wedding and civil rights marches amongst many other clips, all playing to Kanye’s song Ultralight Beam.
In 2018 Yeezy tweeted a picture of his moodboard, that included references to Joseph Beuys and Andy Kauffman, who some have called a performance artist.
His Artist Collaborations
Kanye has reached out to performance artist Vanessa Beecroft to participate in fashion shows and performances for years. The pair have a long history working together, first collaborating on shows in 2013, their relationship has continued and extends to his Sunday Service productions.
His Arty Gifts
In 2013 Kanye hit up his pal George Condo again to have him paint an Hermes Birkin bag for his wifey Kim Kardashian. Now this is something that will probably end up in a museum some day…
His Gallery Presence
The infamous nude sculptures of celebs in bed including Taylor Swift, Donald Trump and Rihanna that featured in Kanye’s music video for Famous were exhibited at LA’s Blum & Poe in 2016. And, while he didn’t appear in person, his wife Kim did, with Yeezy introducing the work via video screen.
His Art Fair Presence
In December 2019 Kanye rocked up at Art Basel Miami Beach completely covered in silver paint. The look was part of a costume for his opera Mary, and caused quite a bit of attention to be directed his way.
His Affinities With Picasso
Kanye’s 2016 album Life Of Pablo is rumoured to be influenced by Pablo Picasso. A year previously, Ye stated that if he were to be an artist, he would have strived to be greater than Picasso in a lecture at Oxford University.
The Artworks Of Kanye
There are countless pieces of fan-art dedicated to Kaye online, and in 2019 photographer Heji Shin exhibited a series of images of Kanye and daughter North at the Kunsthalle in Zurich. The images were shot in Uganda but were met with negative criticism online.
Kanye’s Own Art
In a 2020 episode of Antiques Roadshow – where people bring items they have in their home that they think are worth a lot of £££ to be valued – an artwork made by none other than a Mr Kanye West appeared. Yeezy’s high school artwork from 1995 was valued by Laura Wooley as being worth up to $23,000. Presented by Ye’s cousin-in-law, the programme gifted us with portraits, landscape drawings and an image of a demon.
His Arty Donations
In January 2019 Kanye gave a whopping $10 million to help towards the completion of an artwork by James Turrell. The work, titled Roden Crater, is a piece of land art located in Arizona created within a volcanic cinder cone. Interesting…
The Christmas Decorations
The high street is not good enough for Kim and Kanye. Instead, the mega celebrities went to artist Kathy Temin to commision a Christmas installation. For the West’s, Temin created furry white Christmas trees, perfect for the Gram.
Text Lizzy Vartanian