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Jay Z ‘Completely Used Me,’ Artist Marina Abramovic Claims

“He adapted my work only under one condition: that he would help my institute,” artist says. “Which he didn’t”

Jay Z and Marina Abramovic

Artist Marina Abramovic claims that Jay Z "completely used me" when he adapted her 'Artist Is Present' piece for his "Picasso Baby" video.

UPDATE: The Marina Abramović Institute has issued an apology to both Jay Z and Abramović. According to a release (via The New York Times), the Institute never informed Abramović of the rapper’s donation. “Marina Abramović was not informed of Shawn ‘Jay Z’ Carter’s donation from two years ago when she recently did an interview with Spike magazine in Brazil,” the statement read. “We are sincerely sorry to both Marina Abramović and Shawn ‘Jay Z’ Carter for this, and since then we have taken to appropriate actions to reconcile this matter.” 

Performance artist Marina Abramović, whose 2010 installation The Artist Is Present inspired Jay Z‘s 2013 music video Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film, revealed that she is now angry with the way the collaboration turned out. “I am very pissed by this, since he adapted my work only under one condition: that he would help my institute,” she recently told Spike magazine. “Which he didn’t.”

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She went on to say that she and the rapper had a meeting where she gave him permission to use her work only if he helped her draw attention to her work. “Then he just completely used me,” she said. “And that wasn’t fair.”

As Fact magazine noted in 2013, the rapper had met with the artist and agreed to an unspecified donation to the Marina Abramović Institute. A rep for Abramović said at the time that Jay Z “intends to offer the institute some other form of ongoing support” in a “long-durational collaboration.” A Roc Nation spokesperson at the time confirmed that the rapper would make a donation, but declined to offer any details. It’s unclear whether Jay Z actually donated any funds or other support.

Abramović also told Spike that the situation with Jay Z was different from her relationship with Lady Gaga, who appeared naked in one of Abramović’s films. “Just by having 45 million followers, she brought all these young kids into my public,” the Serbian artist said.

Calling the situation a “one-way transaction,” Abramović said she would never license her work like that again. “I was really naïve in this kind of world,” she said. “It was really new to me, and I had no idea that this would happen. It’s so cruel, it’s incredible. I will stay away from it for sure.”

A representative for Jay Z was not immediately available for comment.

As originally presented, The Artist Is Present found Abramović sitting still at a table in the atrium of New York’s Museum of Modern Art for 736 hours, as people sat in the chair across from her. Jay Z’s version lasted six hours, in which he repeatedly rapped the song in New York City’s Pace Gallery in June 2013 for the Mark Romanek–directed Picasso Baby clip. Judd Apatow, Michael K. Williams and Alan Cumming all visited Jay Z for the video. At one point, Abramović and Jay Z pressed their foreheads together in the video, which premiered on HBO that August.

“The truth is, as far as hip-hop and arts, we were like cousins,” Jay Z told Bill Maher in August 2013. “If you think about those days when Fab Five Freddy was with Madonna and Basquiat and everything. We all went to those clubs; that’s when hip-hop was more underground. The arts and hip-hop really partied together. But when art started becoming part of the gallery, it was this separation. But we pretty much came up together.”

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