Not-so artistic rendering of Kanye West tweeting on stage (illustration by the author for Hyperallergic)
Not-so-artistic rendering of Kanye West tweeting on stage (illustration by the author for Hyperallergic, original photo via Wikimedia Commons)

This morning, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) honorary degree holder Kanye West proclaimed on Twitter: “My tweets are a form of contemporary art only compromised by people trying to tell me what to tweet and not to tweet…” The cryptic message was part of a series addressing his desire to join Instagram, but only if he has complete creative freedom over what he would post there because, “It’s my art.” He then accused his would-be Instagram handler of being a “Non artist trying to grab the paint brush.”

As any of West’s more than 20 million Twitter followers can tell you, if the social media platform is a canvas, he wields words like Jackson Pollock. His comments on art, not unlike his remarks at the SAIC last year, offer sweeping pronouncements on and cutting criticisms of the state of contemporary art, fashion, and music. Here, then, are some highlights from what will one day surely be a collected “Critical Writings of Kanye West.”

On the definition of art:

On the critical feedback offered by those around him:

On his own standing in the pecking order of living artists:

On his portrayal in mainstream media:

On the artist who has had the greatest influence on his work:

On the challenges of making political work:

On the similarities between art and McDonald’s:

On what motivates his practice:

On the state of arts patronage in the Bay Area:

On his relevant precursors in the history of art:

On the public pressures endured by artists:

On his censorship policy:

On the etymology and correct pronunciation of “zine”:

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

13 replies on “A Brief History of Kanye West’s Art Commentary on Twitter”

  1. Damn kids and their hippity-hoppity music…

    I really do not understand the fascination for this guy. Or his wife. Or her demented family.

  2. Surprised he has not named a new art movement after himself. Cubism, Impressionism, KANYEism…

  3. Ok, Kanye West is an artist, but he’s also an apparently an emotionally insecure publicity hound, and part of the same phenomenon as Donald Trump in that sense. They probably have little or nothing else in common, though the people who fit this description arguably have the greater part of their psychologies in common, which is a lot.

    My question is this. Why, especially for an intelligent site like this – major media’s obsession with these kind of knuckleheads being deplorable but understandable given their prioritizing of profit over any other value – is it so hard to resist giving these fame addicts even more of what they crave? What they need, like the spoiled children they are, is to be ignored or disciplined, and what the rest of us need is anything but more of their egomaniacal, deluded rand senseless ravings.

    It says little good about the sources who relay this stuff or those of us who consume it that we have nothing better to do.

  4. I looked at this because I have seen almost nothing on Twitter that was not stupid. But no luck; just more of the same. I am glad Twitter exists, though, because I assume it draws off this stupidity from media channels I do look at. (Some disagree and say that it causes it to breed. In any case there does not seem to be any shortage.)

  5. all I know abut this guy is that he married an artificial woman half Armenian .Never heard his music if one can call repeating the same word over and over music! I am really surprised by the Art Institute of Chicago which is a great institution what a waste of Honorary diploma!!!

  6. In the past we had teen idols such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, and now we have Kanye West. What a let down.

  7. This is funny. thank you. lots of art writing is overly serious, and this is a nice change.
    : )

  8. If the tacit barb of this blurb is “What does Kanye West know about art to make these ‘sweeping pronouncements on it?'”, my question is: What does (or many of the commenters below, for that matter) know about hip-hop as an art form to judge it? KW knows production and arrangement. He knows hip-hop. He’s already demonstrably advanced the capacity and possibility of the form several times in his career.

    But you’re not writing about Kanye West because you care about hip-hop and wonder what he may make of it. You’re writing about Kanye West because he’s famous, outspoken and has the audacity to call himself an artist. You quote what he says about art like “Look at this oaf who thinks he’s a world-class artist!” But without understanding the art he’s making, how are you qualified to judge? What intellectual authority on hip-hop do you have to be so condescending and snide?

    You do so at the eventual peril of your own relevancy. While you poke fun at his funny tweets and ignore the merit and influence of his oeuvre, two subsequent generations of artist are being influenced by his work and his unabashed confidence alike.

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