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What Is Jay-Z Doing in the Art World?

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What Is Jay-Z Doing in the Art World?
Jay-Z and Beyoncé at Art Basel Miami Beach

WHO IS HE?

Before Kanye West proclaimed himself Yeezus, there was Hova, the nickname belonging to 43-year-old rapper Jay-Z. Indeed, he is the godfather of grandiose gestures and—as with Kanye—often makes references the art world in his songs. These have become increasingly common in Jay-Z's recent work, including the album “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” which presold enough copies to go platinum before it was even released.

HOW DID JAY-Z START COLLECTING?

Many collectors enter the market slowly, weighing investment options, and discovering new artists over years. But, as with his rap career, Jay-Z wasted no time establishing himself as a major collector. In one song, Jay-Z likened himself to a blue-chip Warhol painting, while, on “Watch the Throne,” he described his wife, Beyoncé, as a work of art worthy of Larry Gagosian’s attention. His music videos have conspicuously included references to Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God and the paintings of Takashi Murakami, and his album covers are artworks on their own. Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci designed the cover for “Watch the Throne,” while an Ari Marcopoulos photograph of a sculpture became the cover image for his album “Magna Carta Holy Grail.”

Jay-Z’s references to Rothko, Basquiat, Warhol, Picasso, and Koons have become hallmarks of his style, and, unsurprisingly, he also likes to surround himself with the work itself. In addition to a set of two Hirst paintings made especially for Hova and Queen Bey, the rapper owns work by Richard Prince, Tim Noble, George Condo, Laurie Simmons, and Ed Ruscha.

WHAT WERE JAY-Z AND BEYONCE DOING AT ART BASEL MIAMI BEACH?

While Beyoncé managed to take a few selfies alongside Vito Acconci and Theaster Gates works, the couple was doing more than just Instagramming. Jay-Z and Beyoncé shopped alongside Rick Ross and Kanye West, and ended up buying a $20,000 painting by street artist Hebru Brantley. The couple also made a stop at a party for José Parlá and JR’s new book. (Parlá later painted a mural at Barclays Center at Jay-Z’s urging.)

WHAT WORK HANGS ABOVE HOVA'S FIREPLACE?

Andy Warhol’s Rorschach. The painting of an inkblot is part of a larger series, which, atypically for Warhol, never appropriates a preexisting image. Another work from Warhol's series appeared on the cover of Jay-Z’s memoir, Decoded.

WHAT WAS THE RAPPER'S MOST RECENT PURCHASE?

Basquiat is one of Jay-Z's favorite artists, so when producer Swizz Beatz debuted a portrait of the late artist on the hood of a Mercedes-Benz last week, it seemed entirely appropriate that the rapper added it to his collection.

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