Coloring outside the Lines: Hip-hop Takes Heritage off its High Horse

HeritageForAll – Global Collaborations Program (2018)

By Ms. Evgeniya Kartashova (

She has a bachelor in journalism. Then, she has worked for two years in Institute of Russian Realist Art in Moscow as a PR specialist. Also, She was an intern in GARAGE museum and volunteered in GULAG Museum in Moscow. At the moment, she is studying at the master program “World Heritage Studies” at BTU Cottbus and doing an internship at Momentum Worldwide gallery in Berlin. She is interested in the fields of cultural heritage management together with the educational museum programs interacting with the audience.


It’s somehow acceptable for society to support film shootings on heritage sites, yet it is inappropriate to support musicians who use heritage in their videos. In the second case, the action is perceived to be devoid of respect for the space in which it occurs. However, we have to admit that the only reason for this kind of perception is in the social setting that art and museums stay the elitist privilege. While the British Museum is no longer a closed cloister for experts and European museums have opened their archives to the public, we still have to work on making the museum more accessible and understandable for everyone.

Cultural organizations and musicians are both trying to find innovative ways to achieve this, and are delicately feeling out how far they can go. Museums are organizing events to make themselves appear more modern and inclusive, while artists are also trying to break the ice by playing with modern and classical art, both of which are typically seen as unapproachable and overly “special” for mass audiences.

A particularly notable recent collaboration has taken place between the twentieth century’s main modernists – impressionists, cubists and hip-hop artists. Similar struggles, doubts, social reactions and contradictions have provided ground for an ideal crossover. The inclusion of references to Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and George Condo in Kanye West`s Runaway, which premiered at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards [1], declared the end of art’s apparent immunity, highlighting that there are other ways of interacting with high culture apart from those to which we are accustomed.

The hybridization of this approach becomes more apparent – a museum visit can now be considered a statement in itself. Together with the “misuse” of space comes not only the rapprochement of high art and common audiences, but the elevation of artists’ social status. The image of Beyonce and Jay-Z standing in one the world’s most elite museums eliminates the imaginary halo over the Louvre`s roof [2], and dissolves the aura of privilege surrounding such institutions.

Beyonce & Jay Z – shot from the official video Apesh*t

There is nothing new about bringing together museums and dancing – William Forsythe’s “Choreographic Objects” [3] and NEMO’s (Network of European Museum Organizations) “Dancing at the Museum” [4] night come to mind. Making a hip-hop video in a museum, however, is seen by the heritage society as coloring outside of the lines – sure, you can use Picasso pictures, but please stay away from our sacred buildings.

William Forsythe’s “Choreographic Objects” [5]
NEMO’s Dancing at the Museum © Author

It’s clearly time for a new approach. Let`s agree that we are talking about the modern art which is happening now and which has all the rights to exist. Some museum professionals are interpreting this case as the exploitation of heritage – it should in fact be seen as a perfect cultural storm, which gives every culture the chance to extend itself. Art and heritage can’t preserve their value without engaging the public, and gauging a response from a popular audience will remain impossible if heritage retains its privileged status.

Kanye West – the shot from official video Runaway


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: