Angelic iconography. The streets of Paris. Baroque architecture. The halls of the Louvre Museum, lined with French and Italian masterworks and iconic Greek and Egyptian sculptures that date well before Christ. The murals that adorn the ornately gilded ceilings of the museum’s Galerie d’Apollon (the Apollo gallery) ...
The first single and video from the Carters’ (not-so) surprise album, Everything Is Love, seem specifically designed to place the couple among the classics (positioning themselves as modern classics, most likely), using the famed museum as a backdrop for their reunited-and-it-feels-so-good power couple anthem, “Apeshit.”
Directed by Ricky Saiz with second direction by Jenn Nkiru, cinematography by Nicolai Niermann and styling by Zerina Akers (Bey) and June Ambrose (Jay), the Carters make the Louvre their personal concert venue, putting the “art” in artist while giving visual shoutouts to labels Burberry, MCM, Versace, painter Leonardo da Vinci, architect I.M. Pei and more, in equal measure.
But at least one designer thinks Jay and Bey owe his fashion label a debt for the visuals in their new video: Ikiré Jones, helmed by multihyphenate Walé Oyéjidé, Esq., got some major attention earlier this year when one of its ornately illustrated scarves was worn gorgeously draped across T’Challa’s suit in Black Panther. Now the designer is calling out Beyoncé and Jay-Z for possibly referencing the company’s aesthetic in “Apeshit,” posting shot-by-shot comparisons to try to prove the point, as seen in an Instagram post Sunday:
Designing clothing and scarves out of textiles that often superimpose and highlight people of color within Baroque and classical artistic settings, the Ikiré Jones website describes its aesthetic as follows:
Designed by Walé Oyéjidé Esq., the Ikiré Jones archive contains a vivid array of printed silk tapestries that illustrate stories of far-flung myths and undiscovered histories. By Re-Mastering the Old World, each of these unique tapestries pays homage to the work of time-honored artists, while celebrating the perspectives of unheralded people of color. Tapestries from the Ikiré Jones design archive have been exhibited in film and in museums across the globe.
It’s undeniable that teams of both Ikiré Jones and the Carters—several of whom are also called out in the post—have many common influences (and with the success of all things Black Panther, we highly doubt the Carters’ team are entirely unaware of the label’s work).
But do those commonalities clearly illustrate that creative director Oyéjidé, along with tailor Sam Hubler, are the “unheralded people of color” in this case, since what is being referenced by both teams is an aesthetic that originated centuries ago?
After all, take famed painter and presidential portraitist Kehinde Wiley, whose portraits and sculptures of black and brown men and women are also inspired by classical works—and who, coincidentally, is friendly with “Apeshit” stylist June Ambrose. Like Ikiré Jones’, Wiley’s works now hang in museums around the world (and in the Carters’ homes); in fact, he made an appearance in Jay-Z’s six-hour performance at the Museum of Modern Art in 2013, and Beyoncé’s internet-breaking 2017 maternity shoot was said to have been partly inspired by his work.
Interestingly, Wiley’s site description of his work is as follows:
[Models] are asked to assume poses found in paintings or sculptures representative of the history of their surroundings. This juxtaposition of the “old” inherited by the “new”—who often have no visual inheritance of which to speak—immediately provides a discourse that is at once visceral and cerebral in scope.
Without shying away from the complicated sociopolitical histories relevant to the world, Wiley’s figurative paintings and sculptures “quote historical sources and position young black men within the field of power.” His heroic paintings evoke a modern style instilling a unique and contemporary manner, awakening complex issues that many would prefer remain mute.
So, not so novel a concept, after all. But while the Carters are certainly no strangers to accusations of appropriating ideas (or stealing them outright)—we have to admit, it unfortunately feels like very murky territory to lay claim to an aesthetic you yourself are already appropriating.
We get it—and don’t deny the undoubted irritation of seeing the world’s most famous couple (who are seemingly very easy to hate) get even more famous by marketing an aesthetic that has informed your life’s work. But was it really your aesthetic to begin with, or would it all better be described as artistic anthropology?
Perhaps the issue was best summed up by Instagram commenter kiri_elle_tee, who aptly noted:
As a creative, I can understand that we feel [slighted] when someone produces work that seems derivative of ours. BUT, this video was shot in the Louvre! The place that houses so much of the world’s “classic” art and iconography that almost every modern creative has referenced at one point. I look at that video and see (most likely unintentional) apparel and textile similarities to Prada, 90s Gianni Versace, Givenchy, Balenciaga, and so many more. Why? Because they, at some point in their careers, were influenced by the classic and neo-classic “masters” hanging upon those very walls ... just as your creativity is. Also, the Basotho, Tuareg, and Kenyan Maasai are all known for draping colorful shawls/scarves/cloth diagonally across their chest and shoulders. The Congolese sapeurs, and even southern church-men clad for Easter, they both wear pastel suits ... many times double breasted and with ornamentation. Both of my grandmothers draped silk scarves across their chests this way ... and secured them with the loveliest hat pins and brooches! This really isn’t a case of design/aesthetic “knock-off”. Some things are within the very fiber of our various cultures. And we all tap into them from time to time. I do hold Beyoncé to task for her egregious offences in the past ... But it almost seems trendy to jump [on] that bandwagon at this point.