Entertainment & Arts

Moment of Friday: The Jay Z versus Marina Abramovic feud, illustrated

Scytier Drinking the Blood of a Slain Enemy

The art world has been gripped by a feud between performance artist Marina Abramovic and rapper Jay Z. With the help of the Getty, we tell their story with medieval illuminations.

(The J. Paul Getty Museum)

This week, Marina Abramovic trash-talked Jay-Z. The Getty Museum helps us tell the story of their feud using medieval manuscript illuminations.

This week, the art world has been riveted by performance artist Marina Abramovic's very high-profile trash-talking of rapper Jay Z.

In an interview published early this week in the European art magazine Spike, Abramovic said that she felt "used" after appearing in his 2013 video "Picasso Baby" because he hadn't made a donation to her namesake institute as promised.

Sensational stuff — except for the fact that Hova had made a donation, and had a receipt number to prove it.

But there's even more to the story...

So to help sort through this art-and-celebrity madness, I've teamed up with the Getty Museum's assistant curator of manuscripts, Bryan Keene, as well as Getty media producer Sarah Waldorf. They are the brain trust behind the museum's totally awesome "Game of Thrones" recaps, which employ medieval illuminations to summarize the HBO drama's twists and turns.

Sure, the lands of Essos and Westeros offer plenty of melodrama. But as far as fantastical narratives go, nothing beats the Great Saga of Marina and Jay — the perfect narrative for putting all those vintage images of diplomatic tension and feverish battles to good use.

Herewith, our Marina Abramovic/Jay Z recap, as told using medieval illuminations:

J. Paul Getty Museum

THE ARTIST IS PRESENT: Abramovic's media-saturated sit-and-stare performance from 2010 inspires a rapper from Brooklyn to sing for six hours straight at a tony Manhattan Gallery. That's her above. She's still going.

J. Paul Getty Museum

A UNION OF TWO POWERFUL STATES. In 2013, Abramovic joins Jay Z in his quest to sing "Picasso Baby" over and over and over. It started off as a seemingly happy face-to-face collaboration.

J. Paul Getty Museum

THE KINGDOM REJOICES. Namely, whoever managed to get invited to the shoot at Pace Gallery, an exclusive list that included at least one critic. For a time, the art world was sated by the narcotic power of celebrity.

J. Paul Getty Museum

BUT TROUBLE LAY JUST AHEAD. Only two years after forming their historic alliance, Abramovic rips Jay Z's head off in the press, revealing that she appeared in his video in exchange for a donation to her namesake performance art institute. But the rap star, she claims, never delivered the promised donation.

J. Paul Getty Museum

THIS PUTS JAY Z in a bit of a hot spot.

J. Paul Getty Museum

BUT THE RUMOR IS QUICKLY SLAYED when gallerist and "Picasso Baby" producer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn reads the receipt from his donation over the phone to a reporter from Artnet.

J. Paul Getty Museum

IN THIS WAY Jay Z lets Abramovic know what's up.

J. Paul Getty Museum

ABRAMOVIC REALIZES HER OOPSIE as the Internet lashes back.

J. Paul Getty Museum

BUT HER HONOR IS DEFENDED by the Marina Abramovic Institute, which, curiously, issues a statement apologizing to Jay Z and Abramovic for neglecting to tell the artist that the rapper had already paid tribute. Like a pope, Marina is never wrong.

J. Paul Getty Museum


J. Paul Getty Museum

ALL OF IT BRINGS TO MIND, naturally, the Great Schism of the late 14th century when different groups of cardinals within the Catholic Church — one Italian and one French — each elected a different pope. And, for a while, Europe had not only a pope, but an anti-pope. So much shade!

J. Paul Getty Museum

IN THE END: Jay Z and Abramovic, lightly singed from the public attention, remain quiet. Just the way we like them...


Image credits, from top to bottom (click through for their original contexts):

A scytier drinking the blood of a slain enemy, c. 1475, by an unknown artist. Ghent, Belgium.

A depiction of a portable altarpiece with a weeping Madonna, about 1480 - 1490, by Georges Trubert; French.

The Lamentation, about 1405 - 1410, by Masters of Dirc van Delf; Dutch.

Leone Otasso and his wife presenting their sick son to saints Aimo and Vermondo; a crowd of lay worshippers giving thanks, about 1400, attributed to Anovelo da Imbonate; Italian.

The Battle between Rome and Carthage, about 1475, by an unknown artist.

Rain Extinguishing the Flames at the Stake to Which King Kroesus is Bound, about 1405, by an unknown artist.

Saint John the Evangelist writing, about 1340 - 1350, by an unknown artist.

A Man and a Modishly Costumed Woman in Conversation, about 1405, by an unknown artist.

Bible Historiale, 2 vols., about 1360 - 1370, by Master of Jean de Mandeville, Guyart des Moulins, Peter Comestor, and Guyart des Moulins; French.

Alexander Fights in the Town of the Sudracae, about 1470 - 1475, by Master of the Jardin de vertueuse consolation and assistant; Flemish.

The casting of the Golden Calf; the dance around the Golden Calf, about 1400 - 1410, by an unknown artist.

Pope Urban VI and the Anti-Pope Clement VII, about 1480 - 1483, by Master of the Getty Froissart (Flemish).

A man and a woman among burning stones, fourth quarter of 13th century (after 1277), by an unknown artist.

Find me on the Twitters @cmonstah. With very special thanks to co-conspirators Bryan Keene and Sarah Waldorf, who sourced the images and contributed captions. You can learn about their projects and their Game of Thrones recaps by following @TheGetty on Twitter.