August 3, 2013


Jay Z Gets Artsy in 'Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film'

So, Jay Z has lots of famous friends and is kindofabigdeal. But if you were somehow unaware of this truism, last night's airing of Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film drove that fact (about the length of 150,000 football fields or ten large states) home.

Picasso Baby is the condensed retelling of HOVA's foray into performance art as captured by director Mark Romanek, the mastermind behind Jay's "99 Problems" vid:

Last month the rapper/mogul/sports agent spent six-hours straight lip synching Magna Carta Holy Grail track "Picasso Baby" at New York's Pace Gallery.

According to an interview with The Playlist, Romanek got the idea for the piece from the self-described "grandmother of performance art," Marina Abramovic's, Artist is Present performance installation and film.

(That performance consisted of Abramovic sitting at a table for hours on end as people took turns sitting and staring at her.)

Unsurprisingly, Abramovic plays a large part in Picasso Baby from footage of her arriving via black SUV to her up-close-and-personal dance with HOV. She also gets a special thank you in the credits.

But her imprint on Jay Z would be equally as obvious even if she didn't appear in the flesh on Picasso Baby. Jiggaman does a surprisingly good job of taking up Abramovic's performance artist mantle on his own.

Jay was able to work the audience of a few dozen people almost as well as he would an at-capacity stadium. In the film he seamlessly transformed into a performance artist—moving in such a way as to win over each individual on the most intimate and touching level. 

He elicited smiles from fidgety little boys—even knighting one with his Jesus piece—and gesticulated as he "rapped" at each person as if he were trying to explain the complexity behind each lyric to him or her personally.

He also succeeded in frequently flipping the narrative between performer and audience member: one second it was a dancer watching Jay Z, the next it was Jay Z watching the dancer (literally) pirouette.

And all of this would have been quite lovely if it weren't for the fact that almost every face he interacted with was a famous one.

Who was there, you may ask? 

For starters, it felt like the entire cast of HBO's GIRLS got extended face-time; other actors of note included Alan Cumming, Taraji P. Henson and Rosie Perez. Then there were the directors (Judd Apatow and Jim Jarmusch) and the famous musicians (Wale and Fab Five Freddy) and the fashion designers, and art dealers, and real ballerinas, and the "street performer."

All of these peeps got their names dropped in a long credit sequence at the end of the film, which also detailed what each of them do (i.e. artist, actor, director, street performer), in case you weren't fully aware of who they were. They're kindofabigdeal, y'all.

Unfortunately, this star-studded cast seemed to be the undoing of Picasso Baby. What started as a very interesting and impressive undertaking in the name of art, ended up coming off more like a Who's Who of the Jay Z Glitterati. 

But it's still fun—who in all honesty actually doesn't want to see Jay dance with a gleeful blue-haired art dealer with cat-eye glasses? 

You can watch Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film in full below and let us know whether you think HOVA's mega-watt cast is distracting or just really good eye candy.