To discuss Art's impact on Pop Culture, and vice versa, is no new subject matter. In fact, it is common knowledge that Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Katy Perry and a growing number of other musical artists continue to incorporate reference from iconic works of art and artists. However, it is perhaps difficult to fully grasp the sheer intellect and creative adaptation that goes into this marriage between historically revered pieces and current music.
Some artists are more devout than others in respectfully referencing iconic moments in Art History to further enforce meaning within their work, and it is these music artists who consistently utilise this method that become well known for their vivid, meaningful aesthetic.
Widely regarded as the queen of visual aesthetic, Lady Gaga is no stranger to pushing the limits when it comes to her creatively powerful and metaphorical imagery. From her heavily invested music video productions to iconic ensembles like the infamous Fernandez meat dress, Gaga is just one of many artists in pop culture to incorporate art history into her work - but one of the very few to execute it well.
Initially adopting out-of-the-box fashion choices and catchy melodies, Lady Gaga almost immediately presented as the human embodiment of Marmite - people either loved or loathed her. In any case, Gaga’s robust vocabulary of references to different avenues of pop culture has captured the hearts of a multitude of different audiences. Whether you came to know her from her tireless philanthropy or her garish aesthetic and persona, one thing is certain: The woman does nothing by half measure. Here are just a few of our favourite Art-meets-Pop-Culture moments through the world of Gaga.
Obviously, we have to talk about the ‘Telephone’ music video. Following the song's release in 2010, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé dropped what was the most iconic mini-movie of a music video at the time. This video is jam packed with references to pop culture and art history, becoming a melting pot of vibrant colour, cast and choreography. Featuring nods towards Star Wars, Dune, and Chicago, a refined adaptation of iconic cinematic imagery and metaphors are peppered throughout, and the respectful reference to infamous artists is ample.
Pop-art trail blazer, Andy Warhol, best known for his depictions of Campbell’s soup cans and bottle of Coca Cola is continually sampled in the short film. Not only does Gaga wear Diet Coke hair rollers in prison, but becomes the living embodiment of Warhol’s ‘Marilyn Diptych’ (1962). With brassy yellow hair and loud pink and blue makeup Gaga replicates the offset hues in Warhol’s homage to the late actress whose untimely death inspired the creation of the piece. In fact, Warhol’s skill of tweaking iconic American brand imagery is replicated throughout this scene as Gaga appropriates this tactic with her Wonder Bread banquet.
In later years, Gaga revived the ensemble with a dark twist in her 2013 ‘Applause’ music video. Adopting an expression of sombre despair as she donned a structure skeletal dress, Gaga’s reference to Warhol’s erratic depiction of Marilyn presents as metaphor for the late Hollywood star’s toxic relationship with the pitfalls of fame in relation to the dark meaning behind the song’s upbeat rhythm.
Later that year, Lady Gaga’s fourth studio album, ‘Artpop’ was released, shedding a light on the depth of the musician’s relationship with art as inspiration. The album cover itself was famously shot by artist Jeff Koons. Depicting Gaga amongst collaged fragments of Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’, and Bernini’s ‘Apollo and Daphne’ with Koons’ own Gazing Ball truly tips a hat to the album title. The $3M launch event also saw the likes of Inez & Vinoodh, Jeff Koons and Marina Abramovic displaying work for guests to marvel.
In 2013 artist-photographer Robert Wilson created video portraits of Lady Gaga during his time as a guest curator at the Louvre in Paris. Gaga took on the role as some of the most celebrated characters in the museum’s collection. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ ‘Mademoiselle Caroline Riviere’ and Andrea Solario’s ‘Head of Saint John the Baptist on a Charger’ were just two of the incredible depictions.
The pair later went on to produce a small collection of NFTs including a re-staging of Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 ‘Death of Marat’, which fetched $15,120 at Phillip’s 20th Century and Contemporary Sale in New York.
Of course to anyone aware of Lady Gaga, fan or no fan, is likely to be aware of many more instances involving famous imagery. Most interestingly, the subtle references may simply slip by without awareness to the viewer until much later if at all. However, one thing is for certain - artists like Lady Gaga are just one of the factors that continue to keep Art History alive and relevant.
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