Arts Illustrated

April 7, 2020

New Black on the Block

In a brand new and exciting series, we look at the many connections of art in popular culture and how it changes our perceptions of art. We begin with the redoubtable and inimitable Beyoncé

Vani Sriranganayaki

‘I can’t believe we made it,’ sings Beyoncé in ‘Apeshit’ – the first single from her 2018 surprise joint album with Jay-Z, Everything is Love. To those wondering if Beyoncé and Jay-Z – known in tandem as the Carters – have, in fact, made it, the answer would be yes. She delivers that line standing in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum in Paris!

 

When the song was first released on Beyoncé’s YouTube page, many exalted that only the first couple of American Pop music could pull off such a stunt – shell out the cash to rent Europe’s grandest museum for a music video. (Fun Fact: Every year, about 500 shoots take place at the Louvre and the fee for a full-day shoot at the museum is about $17,500)! The New York Times was quick to debunk the claim, but fans held firm ground. Afterall, Apeshit was beyond such technical trivialities. Apeshit was about one thing and one thing only – emphasising black excellence.

From two dancers posing in front of Jacques-Louis David’s Portrait of Madame Récamier, dressed seemingly in just white floor-length durags tied to their heads; to a bunch of them, all in various shades of black, performing abdominal exercises on the Daru stairs; from the vivid imagery of Beyoncé and Jay-Z holding hands in front of Venus de Milo, the ancient Greek statue of the goddess Aphrodite; to sequences outside and inside the museums where performers kneel like protesting football players, Apeshit pulled no punches in letting the world know that black bodies and black culture were loudly, and in no subtle fashion, reclaiming their place in history, particularly, in art history.

 

Images and video credit: YouTube.

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