While the art world often collides with other creative industries—celebrities at openings, artists staging fashion shows, and fashion designers experimenting with making art—one field sometimes flies under the radar, even though it’s long shared a close relationship: music. Since Richard Wagner, whose “gesamtkunstwerk” idea of “total art” swept through the late-19th century and forged a close bond between all facets of art-making, fine art and music have had a myriad of exciting intersections. (And we’re not just talking about when Andy Warhol combined forces with the Velvet Underground.)
Danish painter Eske Kath has collaborated with indie songstress Oh Land for a special performance at his solo show opening on September 5 at Charles Bank Gallery in the Lower East Side. On the eve of the presentation of this original piece (we hear there might be fish head masks…), we wanted to nod to the other standout art and music collaborations throughout history.
Matthew Barney and Björk
Another famous creative couple, Barney and Björk teamed up in 2005 to produce and star in Drawing Restraint 9, a full-length feature film filled with typical Barney installations, large-scale sculptures, and a winding love-story narrative set in Japan. Björk also stepped in to create the soundtrack. What results is a trippy, otherworldly aesthetic experience that only these two could make. The film, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, was bought by IFC and shown across the States.
Takashi Murakami and Kanye West
The Japanese pop artist and Yeezy first united for the design of the album cover for The Graduation and the video for the single “Good Morning." Murakami devised the look of what would become ‘Ye’s brand symbol, the teddy bear, and he even went on to create a series of sculptures aptly named Kanye Bear for a show in 2009 at Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris. Who could forget when West performed at the 2008 opening of the Brooklyn Museum’s Murakami retrospective, or when the duo designed a line for, who else, Louis Vuitton?
Christian Marclay and Sonic Youth
While Marclay is now best known for his hit video collage The Clock, the Swiss-American artist first rose to fame in the 1980s for bridging the art and music divide. By applying the atonal theories of John Cage and the spirit of punk rock to the ones and twos, Marclay pioneered turntablism, perhaps unwittingly and certainly before DJs from the Bronx took it mainstream. No surprise then that the art star found a partner in crime in Sonic Youth, the NYC no-wave band that ran with the Downtown 500. To this day, Marclay and the band’s members, like Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, continue to produce albums and perform live. At MoMA, they collaborated on the Graffiti Compositions performance in 2002, where Marclay petitioned viewers to scribble on blank music notation boards and asked master guitar players, including Ranaldo, to perform the score.
Bill Viola and Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor, leader of the industrial prog outfit Nine Inch Nails, asked the legendary video artist Bill Viola to create a visual component for the Fragility Tour in 2000. The triptych, which hung behind the musicians, was a glowing video suite synched up to Nine Inch Nail’s music. Viola, who hatched the idea by manipulating light reflections against water, went on to explain his thought process behind the project in a video interview that actually reveals quite a bit about Viola’s process. Rolling Stone noted that the collaboration made the NIN tour stand out, and even called it one of the best tours of the year.
Pablo Picasso and Erik Satie for Ballets Russes
No discussion would be complete without the first megawatt collaboration between art and music heavyweights Picasso and Satie. Sergei Diaghilev, the founder and mastermind behind the Russian ballet troupe, had the foresight to corral an enviable group of tastemaking notables (Coco Chanel, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dalí, Natalia Goncharova), but surely it was the 1917 production of Parade that continues to dazzle minds and eyes. Picasso’s cubism came to life in his costumes for the performance that are as geometrical and distorted as their two-dimensional counterparts, while Satie’s score displayed his repetitive minimalism that even had elements of “noise-making,” which would later influence musique concrète.