Before Kanye West took the stage at the VMAs on Sunday night, he (remotely) premiered his sculpture, Famous, at the L.A. gallery, Blum & Poe. Not your typical gallery opening it was an exclusive, two-night private viewing of 13 wax celebrities sleeping in a gigantic bed.
Wife Kim Kardashian West, sister Kendall Jenner were live and in person but West himself appeared remotely via video. (Why? A way to seem more important, is to be too busy to show up to your own opening…?)
According to W Magazine, gallery owner Timothy Blum referred to West’s installation as,
“a serious piece of art.
If you didn’t know that this was a work by Kanye West, and instead was the work of a known artist in the art world, the perception of the piece would be completely different—it would be celebrated and universally supported at the highest level.”
Which is the gallery’s back-handed way of saying, ‘people are going to think this is a joke and it’s not’?
But, as far as I know, he neglected to mention the backstory on where the idea came from. The sculpture was directly inspired by Vincent Desiderio’s painting Sleep, a fact the artist did not learn until the morning of the video’s premiere. According to the New York Times, the evening before, Mr. Desiderio, 60, was told cryptically that he was wanted in Los Angeles immediately. He met with Kanye and his “team” and shown the video. He was flattered and happy and is a fan. He received no money, and obviously, no credit either. Desiderio has said,
“Kanye turned a mirror onto the wretchedness of self-obsession and solipsistic fame. He’s trying to work at the highest level artistically, and I admire that….“
But if you ask me, Blum & Poe and Kanye could have exhibited Desiderio’s original painting along with West’s “homage.” Maybe the omission of the original “inspiration” is the ultimate comment on fame and being “famous.” Kanye said of the video at the VMAs on Sunday,
“It was an expression of our now, our fame right now, us on the inside of the TV. This is fame, bro… We all came over in the same boat and now we all ended up in the same bed.“
True. And if you don’t have any ideas of your own as an artist, borrow others. As I often like to say,
“My work is totally original. I take other people’s ideas and make them my own.“
Yes, I stole that quote.
UPDATE: Following the opening, the gallery has announced the price for Famous is $4 million.
(Photos, Ron Ben; via W)