Picasso Baby Is Not A Love Child

On Wednesday July 10 a still hyphenated Jay-Z showed up at the Pace Gallery in Chelsea to rap Picasso Baby for 6 hours.

(There’s a supa pretty lass who works at the Pace…can’t remember her name, now…though I suppose it’s more important to recall the Art and not the Beauty). The event was a hip hop Bat signal invitation for fans, friends and the famous to join in the fun, the final crucial element to make successful performance art.

Those 6 hours were reduced into an 11 minute polished cameo heavy clip collection video directed by Mark Romanek. Observe:

The Picasso Baby video begins and ends with an unexpected contradiction.

Packaged and sold as hip hop performance art clearly inspired by Marina Abramovic it’s the opening moments with Jay-Z sharing philosophical observations (similar to his recent Samssung ads…dude’s in a contemplative mood these days) and the final famous people cameo shots before the credits roll where Jay Z’s Picasso Baby generates currency.

(The middle…the actual performance art had already been heavily Vined and videoed by those present…I wonder why Jay bothered with a director and an editor when the public already captured the performance and documented the presence, similar to Beastie Boys’ Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!).

Jay’s opening salvo was to engage the audience–“feel the energy of the people” via “the concert as performance art” yet this intimate and immediate connection was tempered by the predominantly celebrity cameos as it fades out.

It’s not the people, the fans who are celebrated and framed for their contributions to this performance art, rather the rich and famous.

The kid with the gold chain credited as Superhero, the Ballerina (who danced and entertained the crowd when the speakers blew) are some of the weakly presented stories in the video. New York City is filled with characters and art, the cool and the crazy…give them a platform and let em shine.

It would have been an honest and authentic New York City represent from a rapper who “made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.”

From the same rapper who in the same song said: “Eight million stories out there…” yet Jay missed an outstanding opportunity to document more than a sliver of some of those stories. You can’t love New York without loving New Yorkers. It’s the fans that make this work possible and it’s their backgrounds and their stories that make them fans.

From the start hip hop was fueled by block parties, not just the energy of the gathered but also by the commonality. Hip Hop became an experience that translated our story, our culture. Unlike rock it was a people’s medium and artistic expression, a whole new type of campfire for storytelling. Even now with our laser like focus ability to target on social media bands, writers, filmmakers and other creatives can’t effectively select their fans. They can however use these new platforms to share their stories so it’s less monologue and more dialogue. Listening is still communication.

Romanek offer 2 freshtastic shots: the first at 1:32 a close of up Jay’s hands behind his back, perhaps a nervous anticipation tell…the other at 6:04 where, the performance art is finished and suddenly Jay is surrounded by 6 burly guards in ominous grey suits.

It’s over.

Surrounded by guards Jay’s been sealed back into this rarefied status and elevated level, like a heroic action figure a nerd won’t remove from the box because it’ll lose value.

We’re back to standard art gallery etiquette: look but don’t touch the art.


Also published on Medium.

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