Few of Kanye West's fans know the background of his artistic director Vanessa Beecroft, whose controversial work as a performance artist is divisively race-obsessed, and arguably downright crazy.
Let's take a look at her history.
Beecroft's early work often focused on skinny, nude or near-nude women standing around, bored-looking, for hours. One performance in 2004 was set to be unveiled at JFK airport, and featured African American women standing naked, all shackled in chains. JetBlue, a sponsor of the show, pulled the plug before its debut.
In 2008, she was the subject of a documentary, The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins. The film explores Beecroft’s experiment in Sudan, in which she attempts to adopt two Sudanese orphans and use them as subjects in her work. At the time, Beecroft knew enough to be a bit defensive, saying:
[The adoption] is not just fetishization of the blacks. It will be a beginning of a relationship with that country.
According to Vulture,
in the film’s most disturbing scene, sisters from the orphanage try to stop her from stripping the children nude inside their abbey for an elaborate photo shoot. Beecroft refuses, complains, starts shooting again, and eventually loses a physical confrontation with one of the sisters, who takes the children away from her, furious that Beecroft is stripping children naked inside a church. “Christ, these people,” Beecroft moans, as she barricades herself inside, pushing a pew up against the door to keep the sisters out of their own abbey.
You get the picture.
With her art career on the skids, she moved to Los Angeles, where lo and behold, she found a new black baby (of sorts) to fetishize! In her own words:
After my career started to fade slowly, being less on a hype, and I moved to Los Angeles, Kanye looked for me. I didn’t know who he was because I don’t know anything about pop culture. I don’t listen to music. And when he approached me I decided to work with him because he was my alter ego: An African American male, and I was a white woman. So I said, it’s perfect, I’m going to take advantage of this channel to do something I could never do before.
West told the L.A. Times, 'I’ve always been a fan of Vanessa’s work. I like the idea of nudity. There’s irony in that.'
The very first collaboration between West and Beecroft was for the 808s & Heartbreak listening party at the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles. Here's a picture from the event.
Beecroft was art director for Kanye's short film Runaway, which accompanied the release of his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In 2013, she designed the sets for West’s Yeezus Tour.
Now Beecroft is inextricably linked to Kanye's fashion line for Adidas, designing the sets and nearly every aspect of the shows, which have become huge social events. Notice that the shows have thus far have centered around nearly nude women standing around looking bored.
Beecroft's last solo work was in 2010. As artnews puts it, 'The work with West has become Beecroft’s only output.' She has left her elite art dealers behind, in favor of a lucrative union with 'the most fascinating and volatile pop-culture figure in the country.'
And she is not just Kanye's muse and collaborator; she will drop everything to fly to his side if he's feeling depressed .'I give him this little spark,' she explains.
I do it all for Kanye. My public facade could just go through him now, I don’t care.
Poor Kanye. It goes far beyond not knowing what 'irony' means. He really truly just doesn't get it.