Kanye West: the most influential person of the year according to Time magazine, top-selling recording artist, filmmaker, fashion designer, performance artist and, of course, musical genius. He has changed the way the masses perceive art and perceive, in the broadest sense, the world. He has crafted words, beats, and images to create art that reaches everybody. This morning at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Kanye was awarded an honorary doctorate. There could not be a more fitting recipient of this honor. Kanye has changed the narration our generation lives by. He said, “I am a pop artist,” and explains that his medium is popular opinion. He uses his art to alter public perception and change our common understanding. When Kanye talks about his work, he does not talk about the medium — or should I say, the many mediums his works cross — he talks about what he wants his work to do in people’s minds: to change them.
As a designer, Kanye’s ambition is to make fashion do what his music has done, connect people together by sharing particular artistic understanding. On album”Graduation”, Kanye used Japanese pop-artist Takahashi Murakami for his cover art. I met Murakami last spring at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. He is an intensely interesting person whose art plays with life’s superfluousness and occasional horror and makes it fascinating and funny. For Kanye to collaborate with someone such as Murakami and introduce his work to the wider world of hip-hop and pop, the world of Kanye West, shows incredible ambition, taste, and courage. Change, for Kanye, is the aim of art.
Yesterday, I saw the Bulls play the Cavs. It was a great game and, although tied until the last 1.5 seconds when Lebron sunk the winning basket, it did not rival Kanye’s presence and performance in the United Center. Yes, Kanye sat front row. He introduced the game and gave us a taste of his rap. Just seeing him in person felt like a sort of cultural event! It is seldom that anyone can give such praise. I believe, however, that Kanye West is actually at the turning point of popular innovation. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago giving Kanye West an honorary doctorate acknowledges his achievement and hopefully will push him towards even more ambitious artistic endeavors. I can’t wait to be a witness!