Opinion

Did Drake’s New Video Get Its Bling from James Turrell’s Light Installations? [UPDATED]

A play on the cover of Drake's song (photo via @vacancyprojects/Instagram)
A play on the cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” song (photo via @vacancyprojects/Instagram)

The internet almost exploded last night when Drake dropped the music video for his track, “Hotline Bling.” But while the Steve Jobs-esque turtleneck he wears while rapping and his very intriguing dance moves dominated the discourse online, what has received far less attention are the video’s backdrops of glowing neon gradients, which closely resemble James Turrell‘s light installations.

An unlikely meeting (photo via @esther___ruiz/Instagram) (click to enlarge)
Did this actually happen? (photo via @esther___ruiz/Instagram) (click to enlarge)

Art types were quick to point out the similarities between the video and Turrell’s works. Though Drizzy himself hasn’t confirmed the connection (perhaps he’s planning to thank him later?), it’s pretty clear the septuagenarian artist’s works served as a source of inspiration for the rapper and the director of the video, Director X (formerly Little X). For one, Drake paid a visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s James Turrell retrospective two Januarys ago, evidence of which exists in the form of a number of contemplative Instagram posts of the Canadian rapper bathed in pixelated color. After that LACMA visit, nothing was the same for the MC. In his 2014 Rolling Stone profile, he commented: “I fuck with Turrell. He was a big influence on the visuals for my last tour.” (No word yet on whether Drake has managed to request a residential commission.)

Turrell is a major figure in the Light and Space movement and has works installed across the world, but music blogs were quick to deliver primers for readers who may not be as well-versed in his work. Noisey even described him as “akin to a deity in art circles, lauded for his mind-bending skyscapes and sensory manipulation … Turrell expands the possibility of art to truly galactic proportions. Perfect stuff for rap videos, right?”

Only time will tell, but if Turrell exhibitions get an attendance boost this year, museums will have Drake and his woes to thank.

Below, some comparisons:

Still from Drake's video with James Turrell's "The Light Inside" (1999) (bottom photo via @eschipul/Flickr)
Still from Drake’s video with James Turrell’s “The Light Inside” (1999) (bottom photo via eschipul/Flickr)
Still from Drake's video with James Turrell's "The Inner Way" (1999) (bottom image via @annamaria_art11/Instagram)
Still from Drake’s video with James Turrell’s “The Inner Way” (1999) (bottom image via @annamaria_art11/Instagram)
Still from Drake's video with James Turrell's "Twilight Epiphany" (2012) (bottom photo via @evartology/Instagram)
Still from Drake’s video with James Turrell’s “Amrta” (2012) (bottom photo via @enskildasamtal/Instagram)
Still from Drake's video with James Turrell's "Twilight Epiphany" (2012) (bottom photo via @evartology/Instagram)
Still from Drake’s video with James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” (2012) (bottom photo via @evartology/Instagram)
Still from Drake's video with a James Turrell at LACMA (photo via @yagmurruzgar/Instagram)
Still from Drake’s video with a James Turrell at LACMA (photo via @yagmurruzgar/Instagram)

Update, 10/20: James Turrell has responded to the questions raised by our post in a statement on Donn Zaretsky’s The Art Law Blog (it is worth noting that Zaretsky represents Turrell):

While I am truly flattered to learn that Drake f*cks with me, I nevertheless wish to make clear that neither I nor any of my woes was involved in any way in the making of the Hotline Bling video.

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