This past May, Kim Kardashian rekindled the internet when the multi-coupler walked out at the Met Gala in a nude illusion dress once sewn onto Marilyn Monroe’s body before her infamous 1962 rendition of “Happy” Birthday, Mr. President “by Madison Square Garden. The gown has spent the past 50 years in pristine archival conditions, only to be exposed within a matter of seconds to every pollution nature conservationists have warned such a historic garment should be avoided.
Many of the audience enjoyed that moment, and the gala’s Gilded Age theme – an event that took place when news leaked that the Supreme Court had the landmark Roe v. Wade’s 1973 decision would reverse – seen as proof that capitalism had officially skipped over the shark in the late stages.
Yet the move was also classic Kardashian. The celebrity has spent a lifetime looking for ways to raise increasingly exclusive cultural capital.
However, Kardashian is far from the only star today who boasts exclusive access to precious objects as a way to polish their own image. The celebrities are increasingly looking for museums and artistic masterpieces to separate themselves from the rest of us.
As usual in recent decades, Kardashian and her ex-husband Kanye West led the way with the debut of a Hermes Birkin bag in 2013 the rapper adapted with a painting by George Condo – the same artist who created the cover art for his 2010 album My beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy. For other albums, West has collaborated with Japanese mega-artist Takashi Murakami and artist West Lang. Sy 2019 IMAX movie Jesus Is King wash filmed inside James Turrell’s country art installation Roden Crater.
In the years since, many hip-hop artists have imitated West’s playbook. In 2015, Western friend Drake used the James Turrell installations in the music video for the mega-hit “Hotline Bling.” Last year, he collaborated with Damien Hirst, one of the richest artists in the world, on his emoji-laden album cover for Certified Lover Boy.
In 2018, Beyonce and Jay-Z has the music video for their song “Apeshit”(From their surprising collaboration album Everything is love) which contains the images or recreation of more than a dozen large works of art in the Louvre, where the video was filmed. And five years earlier, Jay-Z had performed legendary performing artist Marina Abramovic in a processing of her work The Artist Is Present for the music video for “Picasso Baby.”
These art world collaborations are about more than set decorations or about bending the power of a celebrity’s rolodex. They speak to a deeper shift in how celebrities introduce themselves to the public – and this has only just begun in fashion.