The movement known as pop art began in Britain during the mid- 1950s before being appropriated by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Flourishing in a new setting (the New York art scene), the movement began to steer the concept of ‘culture’ away from elite groups through its use of imagery from popular culture, such as advertising, news and ordinary, everyday objects. The elements of irony and kitsch utilised in this new art form can be seen in Andy Warhol’s most famous piece, Campbell’s Soup Cans. This utilisation of found objects and images is similar to the work of the European Dada movement in the 1910s. Constantly referring to Warhol as an inspiration for her outlandish videos and fashion, Gaga has her own creative production team, the Haus of Gaga, which is modelled on Andy Warhol’s Factory.
From an early age, Gaga immersed herself in the world of art, writing a thesis on the work of Damien Hirst and the New York-based photographer Spencer Tunick. Now Gaga is beginning a new movement that depicts classic and modern art in popular culture to educate the masses about the power and history of art. Tunick recently expressed his approval of the singer’s use of her “phenomenal success.” He declared that “any time there is a new perception within the mass culture, there is growth and enlightenment. Whether it’s through museums, mass media and, in Lady Gaga’s case, music, the inclusion of depth and art into a viral expressive mass outlet like pop music is invaluable in the expansion of new ideas.”
Tunick said Gaga’s involvement would “bring a new perception or an experience of the avant garde to a mass audience… [and] any artistic intervention into the masses will only move societies in borderline conservative countries to have more acceptance towards human rights issues, women’s rights and artistic freedom. Art cannot change the world within a bubble. It takes artists like Warhol, Koons and Abramovic to make strong waves of change in conservative societies.” And it is these very artists that Gaga has worked with to integrate the spheres of art and music.
Famed artist Jeff Koons designed the cover for Gaga’s upcoming album, ARTPOP. The artist created a sculpture of Gaga in the same ilk as his previous work entitled Michael Jackson and Bubbles, a 1988 series of three life-size gold-leaf plated porcelain statues of the sitting singer cuddling Bubbles, his pet chimpanzee. Depicted as the goddess Venus, Gaga is seen giving birth to Koons’ The Gazing Ball, which looks like an ornament coloured globe. This portrayal of Venus was altered by Koons in a similar manner as Edouard Manet – the father of modern art – did to Titian’s Venus in his painting Olympia (1863). Whereas Manet brought the image up to date by turning Venus into a hooker, Koons has done it by transforming her into a pop star. The background images of the cover take inspiration from Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, which portrayed the goddess of love emerging from the sea as a fully-grown woman, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, which portrays the battle between chastity (Daphne) and sexual desires (Apollo).
Gaga’s foray into the artistic world was announced through her work with Serbian artist Marina Abramovic. Respected as the ‘grandmother of performance art’, Abramovic seeks to promote the preservation of long durational work. Gaga immersed herself in this work by participating in the Abramovic method, which is designed to train artists for physical endurance. “She is a hardcore student.” Abramovic said of Gaga. “I had to blindfold her, and she was in the forest [naked] for was quite incredible.”
Gaga’s growing fondness for depicting art in music videos, which was already apparent in the use of Botticelli’s Venus in ‘Judas’, is even more pronounced in her latest video ‘Applause.’ Directed by Inez and Vinoodh, the video includes references to the aforementioned Venus, Warhol’s depiction of Marilyn Monroe, the black swan, and John Galliano’s 2009 fashion show. Gaga has also injected her music and presence into the world of films, appearing in Robert Rodriguez’s 2013 film Machete Kills. A trailer for the film utilises a new Gaga song, ‘Aura’ that infuses Spanish instruments into EDM production by ‘Clarity’ DJ Zedd.
Slated for an 8 November release, ARTPOP could very well have a revolutionary impact on the way art is viewed and shared in the modern world. Through mass appeal, Lady Gaga is uniting fashion (meat dress), art, music, technology (social media) and performance into one globally shared experience. The inspiration of Andy Warhol is well noted in the lyrics “pop culture was in art, now art’s in pop culture in me.” With the veneration of art as her ultimate goal, ARTPOP looks likely to fortify the legacy of Lady Gaga as a true artist.