​vanessa beecroft says she ‘becomes black’ working with kanye

The Italian artist worked on several Yeezy shows, including the epic Season 3 presentation slash TLOP album launch, as well as art directing Kanye and Kim’s wedding.

by Charlotte Gush
21 March 2016, 1:39pm

The Italian artist Vanessa Beecroft, who has collaborated with Kanye on films, art events, Yeezy presentations and album launches, including the recent Season 3/TLOP happening at Madison Square Garden, says she "become[s] black" while working with the musician and designer.

In a rare interview, the Beecroft was asked what she likes about working with Kanye over her own work for art dealers and galleries: "When I work with Kanye I am liberated by the fact of being a female, what is considered a white person," she tells W magazine. "I am free from the schemes of the art world, I gain another audience. I am protected by Kanye's talent. I become black. I am no longer Vanessa Beecroft, and I am free to do whatever I want because Kanye allows it."

No doubt many will find this claim controversial, and it isn't the first time Beecroft has divided critics on the issue of race. Her 2007 Venice Biennale performance VB61: Still Death Darfur Still Deaf saw 30 Sudanese women lay face-down, painted black on a large white canvas with slashes of blood-like red paint, and the following year she tried to adopt two Sudanese orphans and use them as subjects in her work, as documented in Pietra Brettkelly's film The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins.

Speaking about her nine-year collaboration with Kanye, Beecroft says she didn't know who he was when she first met him in 2008 -- "I don't follow pop culture," she explains -- but felt compelled to work with him because he is "an African American male" and they were going through similar emotional experiences. "At the time, he explained, he was presenting his album 808, an album that came out of a moment of suffering -- the loss of his mother, of his lover and the trust of a group audience," Beecroft says, explaining that she "was experiencing a similar moment in my personal life and, due to the fact that Kanye is an African American male, [and because] he respected art and he was in a moment of crisis, I decided to follow him."

Though she doesn't elaborate on the importance to her of Kanye's ethnicity or her feeling that she becomes black when working with him, Beecroft does discuss the form of their working relationship. "Kanye is extremely respectful and humble towards others' creativity," she says, adding that she "never felt as if I received instructions but rather a brief, a verbal visualization of thoughts. A daydreaming type of confession and aspiration" that included "briefings, ideas, memories, stories, dreams, fantasies and visuals."


Text Charlotte Gush
Photography courtesy Yeezy

Vanessa Beecroft