Beyonce and Jay-Z posing with “The Mona Lisa” in 2014. Photo: Beyonce/Tumblr. Beyonce and Jay-Z posing with “The Mona Lisa” in 2014. Photo: Beyonce/Tumblr.

On June 16th, Beyoncé and Jay-Z released their collaboration album Everything Is Love, starting off with the song “Apeshit”. The music video is shot at the Musée du Louvre, which not only is the world’s largest museum dedicated to art but also one of the most prestigious.

The couple dressed as Frida Kahlo and Jean-Michel Basquiat for Halloween 2014. Photo: Beyonce/Tumblr. The couple dressed as Frida Kahlo and Jean-Michel Basquiat for Halloween 2014. Photo: Beyonce/Tumblr.

That the couple are big fans of art is no news – besides having an enormous art collection including works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha and Hebru Brantley to name a few, Jay-Z’s been referencing artists like Picasso, Rothko and Koons in his music for years. Beyoncé on the other hand, has worked with several amazing contemporary artists in her videos and pregnancy announcement photographs as well as expressing her love for the works of Basquiat in writing.

When the photo of Jay-Z and Beyoncé posing with “the Mona Lisa” surfaced in 2014, fans roared with admiration – two of the great icons of the 21th century posing with the greatest icon of the 16th century, creating real contemporary symbolism like no other.
When it comes to the music video “Apeshit”, the Carters don’t stop there, the video also features some of The Louvre’s (and Western art history’s) most prominent works.

Still from “Apeshit” – the couple posing in front of the Mona Lisa in 2018. Photo via: NY Times. Still from “Apeshit” – the couple posing in front of the Mona Lisa in 2018. Photo via: NY Times.

“The Mona Lisa” was painted ca. 1503 by the Italian painter Leonardo Da Vinci. The work is considered one of the world’s greatest and has been in the Louvre’s possession since 1797.

The Carters in front of the “Winged Victory of Samothrace”. Photo via: NY Times. The Carters in front of the “Winged Victory of Samothrace”. Photo via: NY Times.

The marble sculpture The Winged Victory of Samothrace was created during the Hellenistic age, probably around the second century BC. The sculpture which is also known as The Winged Nike, is featured in the video where Beyoncé and Jay-Z stand solemnly in front of it. The video also includes dancers gently moving on the staircase as well as Beyoncé herself, sitting down in front of the sculpture in a white draped dress to match.

Beyoncé and her dancers in front of “The Coronation of Napoleon”. Photo via: mashable.com. Beyoncé and her dancers in front of “The Coronation of Napoleon”. Photo via: mashable.com.

Painted in 1805-1807 by French Neoclassical artist Jacques-Louis David, this painting shows the coronation of Napoleon. After being appointed emperor, Napoleon crowned himself rather than having the act be carried out by the church which was the custom at the time. As Napoleon’s history of colonialism is widely known, the symbolic connotations of Beyoncé and her black dancers are indisputable as the women link their hands together in strength and resistance.

The Carters standing on each side of the “Great Sphinx Of Tanis”. Photo via: hyperallegic.com. The Carters standing on each side of the “Great Sphinx Of Tanis”. Photo via: hyperallegic.com.

The sphinx, a great mythical creature of ancient Egypt symbolizes strength, knowledge and sometimes, treachery. “Apeshit” features both artists flanking the sphinx, emerging from darkness. Later, the couple is joined by dancers.

Jay-Z in front of Théodore Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa”. Photo: hyperallergic.com Jay-Z in front of Théodore Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa”. Photo: hyperallergic.com.

The Raft of the Medusa shows the survivors of the wreck of a French naval frigate outside the West African Coast. The ship was bound for a Senegalese port where Senegal was to be returned to France and remain as a colony. Jay-Z is featured in front of the painting, contemplating it’s strokes, colors, symbolism and meaning.

As two of the world’s most successful artists with great recognition and wealth, their takeover of the Louvre bears great meaning and symbolism. The musical genres of R&B, hip hop and rap is not recognized as fine art in the way that western and mainly European art has been considered for centuries, and still is. By entering and creating their own space in a traditionally white territory such as the Louvre, the couple portray themselves both as outlanders in this gilt-edged institution as well as its new heirs.

https://youtu.be/kbMqWXnpXcA

 

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