Jay Z’s “Picasso Baby” Video: The Celebrities Are Present

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 3 2013 1:13 PM

Jay Z’s “Picasso Baby” Video: The Celebrities Are Present

Jay Z and Marina Abramovic in the video for "Picasso Baby."
Jay Z and MarinaAbramović in the video for "Picasso Baby."

Still from YouTube

Jay Z premiered his much-anticipated video for “Picasso Baby” on HBO last night, and the celebrities are present: After a 90-second intro, Mr. Carter descends on the gallery to rap to celebs and scenesters including Alan Cumming, Marina Abramović, Adam Driver, Michael K. Williams, Judd Apatow, Jemima Kirke, Jim Jarmusch, Wale, George Condo, and a man in a cow hat.

The emphasis on celebs won’t appease pop critics disappointed in Jay, who have viewed the invitation-only happening as an event primarily limited to the 1 percent. Director Mark Romanek—who got his start directing a number of iconic music videos, including Jay Z’s for “99 Problems”—does film a few unknowns (guy in the cow mask aside), but he lingers on the more familiar faces, who are credited by name at the end.

If some saw this as an event for elites, Jay Z seems to have a different context in mind for the video. To him, the most meaningful presence might be that of Fab 5 Freddy, who was a fixture at graffiti exhibits at art galleries in the early ’80s. Jay notes that hip-hop and the galleries have grown apart, and says what most excited him was “bringing the worlds back together.” (He made a similar comparison in a recent video interview with Elliott Wilson: “It's like that era when art and music were one, when Basquiat was hanging out with Madonna and Fab 5 Freddy and all those worlds were colliding.”)

But though Jay may begin the video saying that “concerts are pretty much performance art,” it’s not clear that everyone agrees. Though Abramović is shown talking excitedly about the event she helped inspire, she sees what she does as very different. “It's ... wonderful for a visual artist to cross the borders [into a] different medium,” she says, with “music always being the most immature form of art.”*

*Update, August 3, 2013, 1:50 p.m.: A colleague points out that Abramović is more likely calling music "the most immaterial form of art." She has described performance art the same way, so perhaps she doesn't see herself as so different after all.

Previously
Here’s Jay-Z Dancing With Marina Abramović

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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