Hip-Hop Meets Art History

by Laura C. Mallonee on April 15, 2014

(All photos courtesy of Cecilia Azcarate)

Left: “The Adoration of the Magi,” copy after Hugo van der Goes (late 15th century); right: Wiz Khalifa (all images via BFXVI on Tumblr)

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.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 6.33.56 PM

Left: “Reliquary Arm of St. Valentine” (14th-century Swiss); right: 2 Chainz

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 6.34.14 PM

Left: Detail of “Christ Blessing, Surrounded by a Donor and His Family” (1560); right: Kanye West

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 6.33.39 PM

Left: “Christ Blessing” by Gerard David (early 16th century); right: Hot Sugar

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 6.38.37 PM

Left: “Deity Censer” from Mexico (1200–1400 CE); right: YG

h/t designboom

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Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.
  • PaigePyramid

    This is a stretch! A VERY VERY VERY BIG STRETCH! Absolutely ridiculous!

    • Eddie Arroyo

      Yeah Paige, chiiiiill baby.

      • PaigePyramid

        It’s funny how people are silenced and reprimanded for having an opinion that doesn’t fall in line with the majority. My reply to grahambug was clearly silenced. If that was you Hrag; shame on you. You of all people should know the meaning and experience of being silenced for speaking your mind in what you believe in. If you’re not interested in hearing from me ignore it or close the comments. To be moderated for saying ‘Hrag always seem to make a stale attempt at defending mediocrity” or “HA is a trash can where I can dig for some great articles, hence why I keep coming back” is more absurd than my actual opinion. Let this be the day where a curse of hypocrisy is branded on your forehead.

        • Hrag Vartanian

          You are not following the commenting guidelines and you’re demonstrating (again) that you are contributing to an unhealthy commenting environment and contributing nothing to the conversation.

  • Dain Q. Gore

    I was quite surprised to have not seen the work of Rashaad Newsome or Kehinde Wiley here. They are already doing precisely what is suggested by the blogger.

  • Hrag Vartanian

    I know what you mean, but Wiley predominantly focuses on European Art History, while this tumblelog is more inclusive of art history.

  • gvanderleun

    Please don’t connect the freak show to actual art. Thank you.

    • Bobby Adamson

      Yes dismiss culture that you don’t understand as a “freak show.” That’s certainly not ignorant.

    • Jermaine

      I concur with Bobby. That was a very mean comment. Art is art.

  • Chicken_Fingers

    B+ senior art project.

  • PaigePyramid

    “Fun” LOL! Cheers to you who can find interest in the bland and the boring. As noted below by another commenter: “Kehinde Wiley has been doing this for YEARS”. Then we have Hrag who always seems to chime in with a stale attempt trying to defend mediocrity … Side note: there’s definitely some interesting, fun and progressive articles on HA but for the most part its absolutely trash…. kinda like searching through a trash can., hence why I keep coming back.

  • Eddie Arroyo

    Bling Bling

  • TH1ST.™

    The intention indeed was there but I’m sorry to say the effort was very mundane at best .. . Brain pretty much out played your hand with the BOTTICELLI.

  • Jermaine

    This article seems like a stretch, but maybe it showcases that across time and locations, humans don’t really change too much. There’s an underlying need to express ourselves in grandiose and creative ways.

  • Guest

    Nearly forgot about this. Egon Schiele’s “pose” (seen:

  • Jermaine
  • Jermaine

    Nearly forgot about this. Egon Schiele’s self-portrait “pose”., source: (sorry if you see multiple reposts: I thought I repeatedly posted it wrong before realizing that Disqus can be a bit slow).

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