Yesterday Jay-Z hosted an invite-only video shoot at Pace Gallery in Chelsea, where he performed his new song "Picasso Baby" for about six hours as a film crewed captured the scene. The space was populated with a mix of very famous artists, actors, dancers, models, Picasso's granddaughter, and some fans who received a text that morning. The concept was not particularly original, a sort of derivative mash-up of various performance art pieces, most notably Marina Abramovic's "The Artist Is Present." And maybe that was the point? MoMA PS1 Director Klaus Biesenbach was in attendance, and believes it "was perhaps a spoof on the art world... It was a strange but revealing observation of the art world's fascinations." He continued:
"He staged a set up that was half a Ragnar Kjartansson performance, like the artist recently did at MoMA PS1 with the band The National playing six hours long the one song 'Sorrow.' Ragnar described the durational piece with, 'when a song becomes a sculpture.' And the other half was alluding to the performance 'The Artist Is Present' by Marina Abramovic. Marina's performance was about a one on one with the artist, no hierarchy, equally seated across from each other at a table with no time limit. Of course, this was not the case yesterday."
Indeed. Video from yesterday showed Jay-Z telling people to get out of his "cube," a platform that he stood on, as a piece of art, rapping to one person observing him. These people included Alan Cumming, Marina Abramovic, Alanna Heiss, RoseLee Goldberg, and art critic Jerry Saltz, who wrote a terrific, albeit pretty predictable piece about the experience today. Saltz was skeptical at first, noting he had a "negative queasy" feeling after getting there, but once the super famous rap star grabbed him by the waist and led him around the room, he was starstruck: "I loved it. And him. And this. Maybe I was smitten by fame. I stayed for just about the whole six hours."
Jay-Z also asked the non-famouses behind the rope: "Anyone here have a special talent?" Saltz reports back that a ballerina then performed a variation from Pacquita, and another woman sang En Vogue’s “Hold On." Here's a supercut of many, many Vines taken during the performance, where you'll see the ballerina and some others perform, as well as Jay-Z doing his thing:
One woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, was in attendance yesterday afternoon, and tells us what it was like from her point of view on the other side of the ropes:
"As audience members, we were ushered in in groups of 200 or so and stood behind ropes that ran along the room's perimeter, similar to those in museums and galleries that serve to protect art by keeping visitors at a distance. Read into that as you will!
Jay-Z came out right away, with a huge smile and lot of energy, asked for more sound on his mic, and then immediately started rapping to Alanna Heiss, founder of P.S.1, and currently Director at the Clocktower. Heiss then rode a circle around the cubed stage on her kneeling scooter and the crowd went wild.
The majority of the audience seemed to be somehow connected to the art world, so having Jay-Z in the room was only part of the fun. I stood directly next to Maya Lin. Jerry Saltz was there. Marina Abramovic, Marilyn Minter, Lawrence Weiner, Ryan McNamara, Lorna Simpson, and another handful of Pace's artworld darlings interacted with both Jay-Z and with the audience.
Everyone was having fun, everyone was dancing, sweating, and singing together in this gallery that we've all frequented several times over for shows of the artists standing around us, dancing with us. Halfway through the first recording, Jay-Z motioned for the crowd to step over the ropes and to come into the space. We surrounded him in what seemed to be a very controlled, natural pattern, and once the song finished, we all quickly retreated back to our spots, to have the same thing happen all over again, with a different artist, model, or lucky child.
Jay-Z was extremely interactive with the crowd shaking hands, giving high fives, dancing with audience members, all while staying on schedule in what was a sweltering, steamy room without air conditioning or ventilation. This was not—in my opinion—a performance piece, nor was it meant to be. It was a music video shoot. I look forward to seeing the final product and had fun participating."