An Art Education Courtesy Of Beyonce And Jay-Z: A Rundown Of The Art In The Apes**t Video
Recently, the Louvre was evacuated for one day to make way for the Carters—that’s Beyonce and Jay-Z to those unfamiliar—as they privately filmed their new music video for "Apeshit" in the world-renowned gallery.
Directed by Ricky Saiz, the video features the couple in lavish garb standing in the museum’s chiaroscuro-infused halls, while their dancers strutted in front of several artworks that otherwise we plebeians would be yelled at by security for standing in front of. It’s supposedly a biting commentary on slavery, racism, and the prevalence of Western aesthetic standards on cultural norms across the centuries.
As far as popular icons go, the following featured artworks elevated the video to stellar proportions. Their involvement in each frame is also significant, if rather an in-your-face attempt at direct symbolism in context with the track.
Mona Lisa (1503)
Painted by Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa (aka La Gioconda) has become considered through time as the the embodiment of classical yet enigmatic beauty that’s more associated with the high-born and the privileged few.
The Consecration of The Emperor Napoleon And The Coronation of Empress Josephine (1807)
This sprawling painting was completed by Napoleon’s painter Jacques-Louis David, and features the political highlights between the famed couple’s married life. Also featured in this segment are glimpses of Oath of the Horatii (1784) and The Intervention of the Sabine Women (1799), both of which were also created by David.
The couple was known for their fiery and indefatigable temperament, which the Carters may be emulating.
Portrait of Madame Recamier (1800)
Another masterpiece by Jacques-Louis David, this is an homage to Juliette Récamier, one of the era’s most attractive and popular socialites in Paris. She married a banker, but that didn’t stop wealthy and eligible bachelors from seeking out her company.
Apparently, the Carters are quite fond of David’s work, and Madame Recamier is considered by some historians as one of the women who rose to wealth, status, and power through her cunning and looks, a common theme in this particular musical genre.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace (2nd century B.C.)
The iconic Hellenistic marble sculpture, created to honor Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, is one of the central images in the video. Its symbolism is also obvious in the couple’s aspirations toward rising above societal mediocrity and the cultural oppression that it brings.
Great Sphinx of Tanis (c. 2000 BCE)
This granite sphinx from Egypt is one of the largest artworks and artifacts in the museum. Featuring the body of a lion and a king’s head, it also symbolizes the triumph of POCs in an otherwise Westernized society, at least in context with the video.
Venus de Milo (c. 100 BCE)
Another symbol of femininity, this ancient sculpture is believed to be molded after the likeness of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. While it depicts the classical Caucasian aesthetic, there may be something to be said for it being incomplete as far as the message of "Apeshit" is concerned.
The Raft of The Medusa (1819)
This was created by Théodore Géricault as a depiction of the unpleasant truth surrounding the incompetence of man, and "laid the foundations of an aesthetic revolution" against the more popular Neoclassical style of that time.
This may well be the supporting imagery to the Carter’s response against Westernized standards of beauty, in their video.
Louvre Pyramid (1989)
Designed by I.M. Pei, the Louvre Pyramid may well symbolize the coalescence of all that is considered beautiful all over the world – even though many of it is rooted in the much darker and grittier side of history.
Portrait D’Une Negresse (1800)
Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s creation, a black woman wrapped in white fabric with one breast out for the world to see, sits with a tranquil expression. This painting may well encapsulate the Carters’ narrative of the African descendant being packaged in white, but still exposed and vulnerable to objectification.
It’s the perfect embodiment of the adage, “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose: The more that changes, the more it's the same thing.” Which is basically what inequality in the human condition is all about.