The video for Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo track “Famous” obviously stirred some controversy — showing the likenesses of many celebrities in the nude, strewn out next to each other, asleep in bed. With figures like Donald Trump and Anna Wintour, the video clearly was trying to sexualize not only people from Kanye’s past and present love life (though the wax likenesses of Amber Rose, Kim Kardashian, and Taylor Swift — only a part of Kanye’s sex life within the lyrical imagination of the also-controversial song the video accompanies — do all appear in the video), but also to make an overarching statement about the at once exhibitionistic and unavoidably media-invaded personal lives of celebrities. Stirring added controversy (though Kanye, as Pitchfork notes, had said of the video: “It’s not in support or anti any of [the people in the video]. It’s a comment on fame”), Bill Cosby’s likeness was also in the mix, the grand tableau of which was based on Vincent Desiderio’s painting, “Sleep.”
Its aim was discomfort. And it got even more uncomfortable when all of these figures ended up being displayed at a private exhibit at the Blum & Poe gallery in Los Angeles. Now, there’s another step towards ultimate discomfort: the New York Times reports that the wax nude celebrity lookalikes now may have an actual price tag on them.
The gallery thinks they could get $4 million for the whole set of 12 celebrities, as well as the bedspread atop which they sleep their apparently battery-powered sleep. (Apparently the rising and collapsing of their chests as they “breathe” is powered by batteries.) Gallery co-owner Tim Blum cites a series of factors contributing to making that price, erm, reasonable for the particular work of thought-provoking art (…media trolling?/thought-provoking art?/ media trolling?/thought-provoking art?). Said factors include, of course, the Kanye West name, the work involved in putting this together, and the $500,000 to $1 million it took to make this thing: apparently the wax celebrities were lovingly and painstakingly bestowed with human hair and hand-sculpted, with “none more ghoulish than Mr. Cosby’s freckles or Mr. Trump’s fleshy behind,” as NYT puts it.
“This is a thing you could see at Lacma [Los Angeles County Museum of Art], MOCA or the Hammer very easily,” said Blum (though the representatives at the Hammer museum, when contacted by the Times, gave no indication that they’d be purchasing the specimens of “Famous” faux-flesh.)
UPDATE 9/2: Pitchfork says that a rep for West ultimately told them that the “Famous” sculptures are not for sale. “We are incredibly flattered that a number is being reported but at no point have we ever disclosed a sale price for the piece,” they said.
Watch the NSFW “Famous” video: