In 2018, superstar couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z teamed up to write, film and produce APESH*T, the lead single from their collaborative studio album Everything Is Love. The music video for the song was filmed at the Louvre, the world’s most visited museum in Paris. Featuring iconic masterpieces like the Mona Lisa (c.1503), The Coronation of Napoleon (1805-7) and Winged Victory of Samothrace (c.200BC), the music video received eight nominations at the 2018 MTV Music Video Awards. According to an article by The Guardian in 2019, The Carter’s iconic music video helped the museum break ticket office records with more than 10 million people visiting the French institution that year, and the duo bringing new audiences to the art world in numbers otherwise impossible to achieve.
This is not the only example of the art world and celebrity culture coming together and changing our perception of the art world. The relationship between the two groups have been symbiotic for many years. From artists rising to VIP status, to the rich and famous becoming muses for creatives, we look at the different ways in which celebrity culture and the art world have collided.
TERRY O’NEILL, ELTON JOHN, 1970s
The great pop artist Andy Warhol once said that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” and no one could have predicted how accurate his prophecy would become. The artist himself became one of the 20th century’s most prolific celebrity symbols, with the creative’s studio, The Factory, being frequented by rock-stars like Mick Jagger, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan. He was also friends with other famous artists from 1980s New York like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat and together, these vibrant personalities became synonymous with celebrity culture, partying and dating other iconic individuals of the era. In 1982, Basquiat even dated queen of pop, Madonna, with the pair undergoing a fiery love affair that ended tumultuously and the artist destroying all of the artwork that he’d made for her.
JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, HOLLYWOOD AFRICANS, 1983/2015
From powerful patrons like the Florentine Medicis to wealthy socialites like the renowned Peggy Guggenheim, art has always been collected by the elite. However, in recent years celebrities, who may not have met cultural elitist standards, have also started collecting art. Musicians like Elton John and Jay-Z, as well as media personalities like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, have all gained notable traction from their impressive art collections. With the rise of social media, patronage from well-known celebrities with large followings can be more impactful than support from members of the art elite. KAWS is an excellent example of this. Initially disregarded by galleries and institutions, urban artist KAWS built his reputation through celebrity endorsement. The artist is collected by the likes of Pharrell Williams, Drake, DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Alicia Keys and Kylie Jenner, to name just a few.
As the boundary between art and fashion merges, so does the distinction between celebrity culture and the art world, as fashion is inherently tied up with celebrity promotion. Visionary art and fashion collaborations will nearly always involve famous faces, whether it is an eminent model or a legendary designer. For Spring/Summer 2021, fashion designer Stella McCartney embraced the progressive punk attitude of Japanese contemporary artist Yoshitomo Nara. She collaborated with the artist to create We are punks, a unisex clothing line featuring Nara’s designs. From silk trousers to knitted jumpers, the range of clothes promoted Nara’s work in the world of celebrity.
YOSHITOMO NARA, POINDEXTER, 2010
Since the phenomenon of celebrity culture, famous figures have been the subject of art. From models posing for fine art photographs to well-known sitters being painted for portraits, there are a range of artists whose signature style feature the depiction of recognisable faces. David Yarrow is one such artist; Ciara, Jordan Belfort and Cara Delevingne are among those that have been captured by him. Earlier this year David also released a new photograph with Cindy Crawford to raise money for a children’s hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. Entitled ‘1992’, the image recreates Cindy’s iconic 1992 Pepsi advert, returning to the original Halfway House and capturing the same moment, but many years on and in David Yarrow’s signature style.