If you saw Kanye West’s “Famous” music video and thought, “I wish I could be there in bed with all those fake naked celebrities,” you’re in luck. Over the weekend, in a special two-night event, the “Famous” celebrity sculptures were put on display at Los Angeles’ Blum & Poe gallery. Because life-size replicas of naked celebrities are art, apparently.
Directly following the event, rumors emerged that West was selling the sculpture — including all 12 celebrity lookalikes, the bed and sheet — for $4 million. A rep for Blum & Poe has dismissed rumors in a statement to E! News, saying, “Unfortunately that was misinformation — the work was never for sale, is not currently for sale, and a price has not been discussed nor agreed upon.” So, you can’t pay to actually own a piece of the “Famous” video, but it’s likely that West will take the sculpture on the road. Before West’s art show comes to a city near you, we have some questions to ask.
1. Is it legal? Did celebrities approve the creation?
West’s “Famous” sculpture features life-like silicone sculptures of 12 celebrities: Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Caitlyn Jenner, Amber Rose, Anna Wintour, Ray J, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, George W. Bush and, of course, West and his wife Kim Kardashian. While it’s possible he got approval from a handful of the real celebrities, it seems obvious he mostly just went ahead without giving anyone a courtesy call (Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian will probably reveal all at some later date).
Logically, there’s just no way Trump or President Bush would approve of being portrayed naked in a giant, celebrity orgy. Also pretty unlikely are Cosby, Wintour, Ray J and Swift (especially given her response to the song itself). The bottom line is, the only people we know for sure who agreed to have their naked likeness in the video and displayed at Blum & Poe are West and Kardashian.
2. Are the sculptures anatomically correct? Do they have genitals?
Other than the nudity clearly visible in the video — Kardashian’s famous derrière, Rose’s breasts, etc. — are the sculptures anatomically correct? Putting aside the fact that there’s no way the celebs featured provided West with their exact measurements, it would make sense that the sculptures wouldn’t be entirely detailed. After all, portions of each are covered by a carefully draped white sheet, obscuring the view of the complete body. According to CNN, the sculptures were commissioned to be “anatomically correct.” So, in other words, yeah, it’s likely they have genitals, though it doesn’t seem that anyone provided a mold.
3. How did West decide what the bodies would look like?
Wait did you guys really see his ass!???!?!!!! https://t.co/ouRRDhThBB
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) August 31, 2016
Kardashian, Ray J, Rose, Rihanna and Chris Brown have posed for thousands of photos, a lot of them scantily dressed. So, it’s not hard to imagine how West and his team of artists set about ensuring the precision of the celebrity sculptures. But what about Swift, who has never posed nude publicly, or Trump? To ensure that the sculptures were as accurate as possible, West had a team of celebrity stylists, consultants and analysts who spent hours studying photos and Instagram accounts to get proportions as accurate as possible. The figures were then rendered via computer animation and later created from silicone. Details were reportedly hand-sculpted, with the additions of freckles, tattoos and even human hair meant to create a truly life-like replica.
4. Is this even art?
We’re not going to be able to answer the question of what makes something art based on West’s “Famous” video, but it seems fair to wonder about the artistic value of his piece. “The work alone is extraordinary and completely succeeds as a sculpture and multi-media installation,” Blum & Poe cofounder Tim Blum told CNN of the piece. After all, the sculpture is more than just a creepy rendering of naked celebrities. The piece uses mechanics to create soft breathing motions — each sculpture’s chest moves slowly up and down, as if in deep sleep. It does seem, then, like a work of modern art.
5. Is Taylor Swift cool with it?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no, she isn’t. Swift has not commented on West’s decision to show the work. In fact, she’s refrained from commenting on anything Kimye-related for the past month and a half, ever since she famously asked to “be excluded from this narrative” of her alleged feud with West.
6. Where is the sculpture going next?
According to The New York Times, someone form West’s team confirmed that the sculpture is “on its way to its next location.” Where and when it will pop up next, nobody seems to know for sure, but just like West, it’s not going away anytime soon.
7. Does this really deserve our attention?
Here’s the thing with West’s sculpture: It’s ethically suspect. Honestly, it gives me the creeps. The fact is, whether it’s their real bodies or not, most of the celebrities depicted in this voyeuristic art installation did not give their consent to be viewed this way, specifically not for profit, which, let’s face it, is what all of this boils down to. For someone like Swift, who carefully curates her image, West’s “artwork” seems to directly defy her control and autonomy over her body. For whatever reason, Swift has chosen not to pose naked for the public eye, and West should respect that. Other celebrities, like Rose or Rihanna, have gotten naked for the public, but they were always in control of how, when and why they decided to disrobe. West’s “Famous” sculpture disregards that choice, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
At the end of the day, Kanye West is going to do what he’s going to do, but that doesn’t mean I need to care about it. And this is one of those things I’m choosing not to care about.
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