The best ideas often seem so obvious that you kick yourself for not thinking of them first. They happen when people draw connections between the millions of bites of information they take in every day, whether by ingenuity or sheer coincidence.
Cecilia Azcarate, a designer at Johannes Leonardo creative agency, must have been having one of those moments when she came up with the idea for her art history tumblelog, B4XVI (which stands for “before the 16th century,” as all the art she uses is). In an unlikely marriage, it pairs pictures of rappers with historical sculptures, paintings, and statues from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, tracing the swag and power poses of hip-hop artists like Young Thug and Whiz Khalifa to pre-Colombian effigies and Netherlandish paintings.
The results are uncanny. We all know Jay Z wants in on the art world, but who knew that 2 Chainz’s hand signs have their roots in the blinged-out, 14th-century reliquary arm of St. Valentine? Or that Kanye West is actually taking style cues from a fur-swathed young man in a 16th-century northern German painting? Or that Hot Sugar looks so much like a baby-faced Jesus?
It now seems clear: one century’s highbrow is another’s lowbrow. Azcarate’s side-by-side images give us a reason to ditch the labels altogether.