You probably know Vanessa Beecroft as the longtime Kanye West collaborator who created the presentations for all three Yeezy Seasons so far. However, the artist doesn’t give very many interviews so we learned a lot about Beecroft from her profile with New York Magazine Tuesday. You can read the six wildest quotes from the story below.
She’s “divided” her personality and took a DNA test hoping she were black. “There is Vanessa Beecroft as a European white female, and then there is Vanessa Beecroft as Kanye, an African-American male,” she tells NY Mag. “I even did a DNA test thinking maybe I am black? I actually wasn’t. I was kind of disappointed, and I don’t want to believe it. I want to do it again, because when I work with Africans or African-Americans, I feel that I am autobiographical. If I don’t call myself white, maybe I am not.”
She originally thought the picture of a Rwanda refugee camp that inspired Yeezy Season 3 was taken at Woodstock. “That was a random pick,” she said. “The image came out of one of my books, and I thought, Perhaps this is Woodstock, because it looked really fashionable and glamorous, but no. That was a refugee camp … I wanted the people to look poor. Poverty and elegance were the key words. Poverty and elegance. No trends, no fashion. Real poverty, what you encounter when you travel to Africa, Mexico, those countries where people wear their clothes with dignity and they look elegant and they look like they have intelligence. When we were casting, I said, ‘Please don’t have anyone who looks stupid. Or fancy. Please. Classical, poor, and elegant.’”
She doesn’t really know who Beyoncé is. Less a quote, but New York Mag writes: “As for popular culture, she’s working on ‘a Barbie doll project’ for Mattel. Perhaps some of them will have ‘caramel Beyoncé skin,’ she says, acknowledging murmurings (including from her husband) that Beyoncé’s “Formation” video owes her some creative debt. But she doesn’t get into any of it too deeply, she says, because she has only the vaguest idea that someone named “Beyoncé” actually exists.
She talks about when she first started casting black people in her projects. “My first black project was originated by the fact that I met a bluesman from Chicago in Italy and he was white and he was really, really upset by being white, he kept saying, ‘If only I was black,’” she said. “He felt discriminated against. And that really triggered something for me. I said, ‘I’m going to be black, too.”
The story about her first trip to Africa. “It was so beautiful, really aesthetical!” she said “And everyone looked like Alek Wek. ” New York Magazine writes that while she originally was trying to get to Darfur she ended up in what is now Sudan. There, she created an art project around two twins she wanted to adopt who had lost their mother during childbirth. The resulting photo shows Beecroft breastfeeding the two children in a custom Margiela dress with a burned hem and cutouts for her breast.
Beecroft on meeting Kanye West in 2008. “Usually my modalities exclude music, pop music, pop culture, mass culture,” she said. “I hate it. When Kanye approached me, his studio to mine, my assistants said you have to meet him, he’s important. I had just come from several trips to Africa where a Sicilian intellectual academic man who I had consulted for the documentary said, ‘You will find your Orestes in the U.S., and it will be an African-American man.’ So when Kanye contacted me, I said, ‘Here he is!’ Also, Pasolini said the next king of Africa will be an African-American king of music, so I said fine. I decided to go with it.”
In the rest of the interview, Beecroft claims she was cut from Kanye’s payroll at the behest of Kim Kardashian and reveals that she calls her house in the Hollywood Hills a “favela.” You can read it here.