The visuals for Kanye West’s controversial “Famous” video were largely inspired by “Sleep,” a 2008 painting by Vincent Desiderio. Now the artist has penned an essay for W Magazine reacting to Kanye’s video, calling it “a feat of magic” and saying, “It held its audience in suspension over a tableau that was disturbingly familiar, rapturously beautiful, and frighteningly uncanny.”
Desiderio also shares a very Kanye story about meeting Kanye, saying that information was vague before they eventually met at The Forum in Los Angeles:
It began with a random phone call: “Kanye West is trying to get in touch with Vincent Desiderio. It is extremely important that he return our call.” After a series of missed calls and frantic text messaging I came to learn that I was being invited to fly out to Los Angeles the next morning to meet the acclaimed artist, and that Kanye, “being a tremendous fan” of my work—I’m using quotes, because one hears that phrase so often in the art world that it might as well mean, “I have no idea who you are and please don’t call me out on this”—wanted me to be present at an event the Forum in L.A. No other information was given.
When I arrived the next day, I was told not to go to the hotel but instead directly to the Forum. The mystery redoubled as I was lead through a system of corridors and security checks to a room whose door was streaked with wild Abstract Expressionist marks. Inside was a small gathering of men and women seated around a laptop. Kanye stood up and greeted me warmly. We spoke about his new album, “The Life of Pablo,” and about a particular quote by Edgar Degas, about how a painting should be constructed “like the perfect crime.” I ventured that the Pablo referred to in the title was a dual reference to Pablo Picasso and Pablo Escobar. Kanye smiled and said, “St. Paul, too.” His eyes glistened. We were on the same page.
Desiderio concluded his piece, “Kanye West’s video demonstrates how art speaks the language of art, how visual codes people the artistic imagination, enlivening the matrix of possibilities that are always and everywhere about us, but barely perceptible to those who focus only on the surface.”
Read the entirety of Desiderio’s essay here.