Jay Z, The Artist…. Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film

Jay Z’s performance art piece premiered on HBO last night. And it was glorious.

For those of you who don’t know, a few weeks ago, Jay performed “Picasso Baby” for 6-hours straight at the Pace Gallery in New York City. Fans, performers, writers, comedians, directors, dancers, singers, designers, otherwise known as “artists” joined in the performance – creating an intimate, powerful and commanding work of art.

When news first broke that Jay Z Would be creating “performance art” for his new album, some of the so-called art community reacted online with a laughably stereotypical negative outcry of “that’s not art”.

Well… in response to all you haters, please think back to Saved By The Bell, episode in which Lisa Turtle tries to impress a pretentious snob…

”What Is Art? Are We Art? Is Art Art?” – Lisa  Turtle.


Couldn’t have said it better myself Lisa. Who are they to define art?!

Mark Romanek directed the performance piece, shooting six-hours of lyrical flow and Jay’s interaction with the audience. The idea came from a Marina Abramovic performance piece, which documented the artist’s marathon series of one-on-one interactions with visitors at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

“What I pitched to Jay was, you regularly perform to 60 or 80,000 people at a time. What if you performed for one person at a time? What if it was like Marina’s piece? And it evolved from there in terms of how to build it, and he got very excited by that. I mean, halfway through me pitching it to him, he said, “Wait, wait, I got chills. That’s exactly what we should be doing.”” – Mark Romanek


With Abramovic’s blessing (and a great cameo by the artist herself), Jay invited an eclectic mix of his fans, New Yorkers, to share in his incredible performance. I’ve had my issues with Magna Carta… Holy Grail  (http://wp.me/s3pq8p-373), but I adore this song – it’s one of my favorites on the album. It’s catchy, clever and exactly what I love about Jay. The beat is lazy and cool, the lyrics are crisp and cutting and the performance is perfect.

There’s so much joy in this piece of art. You see it in the faces of the fans, you see it in the faces of the audience, and you see it in Jay. It’s an extremely cool, personal and avant-garde delivery of his art. Romanek calls it a  “tsunami of joyfulness” – and that’s exactly what it is.


It’s not a cliché of a typical street-wise rapper. It shows a man who’s grown into his status – who appreciates the life he has. It’s a document of people having a really good time.

It’s beautiful work. I just wish I could have been there to see it as it was happening. I’m crazy for this one Jay. This is performance art. Jay Z is the performer. The hip hop artist.

It’s art…. It’s Picasso Baby.


“We don’t want to do a music video. That’s from another era. We need to do something that’s more genuine, more spontaneous and more alive.” – Mark Romanek

(Please give this great interview at the Huffington Post a read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/01/mark-romanek-picasso-baby_n_3683437.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment)


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