Art Basel Miami Week 2013 – Kayne West and Jacques Herzog
Design Diatribe: Kanye West and Jacques Herzog speak during Art Basel Miami Week 2013 – Shana Beth Mason
Joyless connoisseurs, critics, collectors and dealers could possibly forgive the melee of fashion designers, carmakers, watchmakers and reality TV shows that flock to Miami during Art Basel every December: all of this hoopla might actually hold a nugget of useful cultural education or insight. But when a man who calls himself ‘Yeezus’ attempts to fill the role of architecture critic alongside Jacques Herzog (one half of the Pritzker Prize-winning firm Herzog & de Meuron) and über-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, its fair to admit that flamboyance has spilled over into pure celebrity posturing.
Hosted by Surface Magazine at the Moore Building (wedged between the Wynwood Arts District and the Miami Design District), Design Dialogues paired rapper-producer-fashion designer Kanye West with architect Herzog and moderator Obrist (Co-Director of Exhibitions and Programmes/Director of International Projects at London’s Serpentine Gallery). This was the sixth talk in a series that has previously featured architectural talents such as Ian Schrager, Enrique Norten, Piero Lissoni and Giulio Cappellini. Even judging by the existing transcript of the discussion, West appeared out of his depth next to Herzog, a visiting Professor of architecture at the Harvard School of Design (since 1994) and ETH Zürich (since 1999). While Herzog focused on questions of architecture addressing civil needs and cultural history, West simply circled back to his own tastes and his music-making.
Design aesthetics and core principles soon turned into an interview, with Herzog searching for some kind of straightforward or sincere answer from West regarding his musical style, technique and/or process. If West redeemed himself, it might have been in reference to his purchase of a Le Corbusier lamp, which he admitted was well beyond his typical price range or buying impulse. Herzog seemed to remain infinitely patient and complimentary, going as far as to suggest collaborating with West in the future. While the pace appeared steady and well-steered by Obrist, it was strikingly clear that West injected his opinions for no greater purpose other than to boost his profile amongst the contemporary art and design ilk.
What might have been a constructive, informative session on the future of architecture and/or its inextricable relationship to the way we view art (be it made with or without purpose) spiraled into another needless photo-op. There were plenty of paparazzo to catch West offstage with fiancé Kim Kardashian, but precious few (in fact, none) could actually iterate what the dialogue had produced or achieved. Talks of this nature are greatly anticipated by those seeking to take away something elevated. West was on the right path in discussing his own artistic influences and background, but could only register excitement when complaining about the content of the Tumblr accounts of young people, today. In the end, all the spectators received was a shove backward from West’s security detail and a firsthand look at a musician masquerading as an academic.