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.

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

30 replies on “Did Drake’s New Video Get Its Bling from James Turrell’s Light Installations? [UPDATED]”

    1. Excellent catch, but in fairness to the author, should encyclopedic knowledge of Dire Straits videos be expected of her?

    1. That is not a booty. That is a horse implant. Like, the entire horse. All of it. Whinying and neighing to get out.

  1. So… you’re going to totally negate Drake’s nod to Caribbean culture because you don’t know Caribbean culture and its dance moves? Okay…

  2. I’m gonna let you finish but-
    DRAKE IS SO MUCH MORE THAN JAMES TURRELL (who is note, just a background in this vid.)

    You could show drake dancing at a gas station or a black box and it would still be just as charming 😀

    1. I’m sorry, but you’re retarded. James Turrell has been making art before Drake was stuck in a wheelchair on Degrassi, /AND/ before he was born.

      1. Your statements are ableist. This seems like a question of taste, and has little to do with my intellectual or physical capabilities.

        1. It’s not an ableist statement at all. Did he play a kid in a wheelchair? Yes. Does that have anything to do with others with disabilities? No. I never made reference to anyone other than Drake.

          But regardless, no, I’m not talking in regards to historical chronology, but rather skill. Sure it is my opinion, just as is yours about Drake being more important than James.

          1. Not my responsibility to remind you the offense that word invokes for people with mental disabilities. smdh

      2. Speaking from fallacious historical chronology you’re presuming then, Picasso would be a much better artist than James Turrell, and cave painters would be supreme?!


    it's just so odd how there are NO CLOSE UP shots in this vid. So obv that Director X is not the man for this job.

  4. It’s annoying for me to see Turrell’s extensive body of conceptually and visually stimulating work reduced to a backdrop for a shitty pop song.

  5. Turrell: I nevertheless wish to make clear that neither I nor any of my woes was involved

    How come he hit the W and not the H? They’re way apart on the keyboard.

  6. Fact of life: One’s work influences many.
    Good for all I say, though some may disagree.

    Not a fact of reality: “pixelated color” whatWhatWHAT?
    How could that which doesn’t have shape be pixelated?
    You’re stepping in my domain here and the floor squeaks.

    No, I wasn’t influenced by an artist I like, I was by one I don’t.
    (Gala/Lincoln Dali)

  7. Come on James pursue legal action. Don’t let a pop star cheapen your brand and stand up for artist everywhere. You know damn well if anyone used Drakes music for profit Drake would be suing like hell.

  8. recognition, respect for and attribution of another artists work is truly the correct way to avoid “dissing” that artist. Drake is some form of entertainment, but James Turrell is a visionary artist with a huge depth and a major contributor to the path of visual art. Sad that Drake is too arrogant to acknowledge or appreciate a master.

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