Jay Z, photographed while filming the performance art piece for his track “Picasso Baby” at the PACE Gallery in New York City by Brian Finke on July 10, 2013. The 11-minute film would premiere on HBO on August 2, 2013. It was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Music Video,” but lost to Jay and Justin Timberlake’s collaboration “Suit & Tie.”
Directed by Mark Romanek, the film was inspired by the work of performance artist Marina Abramović—in particular her 2010 installation “The Artist Is Present.” Jay performed the track for six hours, with breaks only for hydration and crowd changes. The crowd—which was intended to display a cross-section of the New York art and cultural worlds—formed a circle around Jay, watching him move within the room, interacting with audience members or those lucky enough to earn a seat on the wooden bench set in the middle.
Attendees at the filming included Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter and art historian Diana Widmaier Picasso, Abramović herself, performance art champion Roselee Goldberg, artists George Condo, Lawrence Weiner, Fred Wilson, Andres Serrano, Marcel Dzama, Rashid Johnson and Marilyn Minter, art critic Jerry Saltz, fashion designer Jenna Lyons, art power couple gallerist Bill Powers and fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, hip hop legend Fab 5 Freddy, director and producer Judd Apaptow, actors Taraji P. Henson, Michael K. Williams, Rosie Perez, Alan Cumming and Adam Driver, dancer Storyboard P, rapper Wale, and many other representatives from galleries and the sales side of fine art.
“I had no idea what I was going to do,” Abramović said afterward. “I just came here and felt the energy. I love his music, because it’s social issues, it’s political, and really goes to everybody’s heart. It’s so good. It’s like a volcano.” She would later accuse Hov of using her for the piece, upset that her institute hadn’t received a donation from him. The film’s producer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn came forward and advised that Abramović’s claims were unfounded, quoting a receipt from the substantial donation Jay Z had indeed made to the Marina Abramović Institute. The artist and the institute then released an official apology to Jay Z, saying they were misinformed and would be taking appropriate actions to reconcile the matter.