28 Dec


… are just two of things that happen when Kanye West decides he’s a video artist and makes a seven screen installation to be shown in Cannes. Well, in a tent in a car park in Cannes. Naughty Kanye isn’t the first and nor will he be the last artist to massage their CV by claiming more approval, imprimatur and enthusiasm for his work than actually exists. Like those artists, he’s probably gambling (and he’s probably right) that people will notice “Cannes” first then skip all subsequent processing.

A ridiculous Muppet... and some kind of pig thing?

A ridiculous Muppet… and some kind of pig glove puppet thing that isn’t Kanye West? (IMAGE UNRELATED TO KANYE WEST’S VIDEO INSTALLATION.)

West is nothing if not canny (there could be sort of a canny/Kanye pun here but I can’t be bothered to deal with it. Here are the parts, make your own). He financed this project with Qatari money. Qatar is the richest country in the world, and the Arabian peninsula in general is one of the new hotspots for contemporary art buying, selling and commissioning. Probably because they’ve already got all the gold-plated Bentleys, gold-plated toilets, gold-plated wives, and indentured foreign domestics they could possibly want, now they need something else to piddle their ill-gotten money away on.

The Guardian says:

Cruel Summer makes a statement. The statement is business as usual. The film, the screening, the car park-bound semi-premiere. This is Kanye selling Kanye, through the latest method that’s grabbed his fancy.”

While I think West richly deserves to have his general pretentiousness, arrogance and pomposity mocked, statements like the one above do make me think: based on this kind of assessment, how is Kanye West any different or worse than Tracey Emin, for example, or Damien Hirst, or any number of other successful (and critically lauded by the orthodox art world) contemporary artists? How is Cruel Summer less stupid, banal and egotistical than Tacita Dean’s work for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern? I don’t think it’s substantively different in effect, intent or professionalism. West may act like a total tool sometimes, but he’s also obviously a very intelligent man just as Emin and Hirst are extremely bright people despite their frequent buffoonery, obnoxiousness and charlatanism. I hate to play that card, and I hate even more to sound like Kanye West himself, but could the comparatively strident quality of the disdain for his foray into YBA/Frieze-style pompous, arrogant, overscaled art conceivably have a teeny little bit to do with the fact that he’s black?

The Guardian:


… and to The Guardian’s shame, there’s much more detail about the film and better analysis of how it came to be made at the ridiculously trashy and shallow Hollywood Reporter.


PS: The video installation actually looks quite pretty and has the seated audience very decisively placed to feel dwarfed by the experience, which is more than can be said for the installation work of some so-called “Fine” artists.





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