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Art historian breaks down Beyoncé and Jay Z’s ‘Apes**t’ video in viral Twitter thread

There's a lot to unpack here.


Christine Friar


Posted on Jun 18, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 1:15 pm CDT

Beyoncé and Jay Z surprised the world with a new album over the weekend, plus a video for their lead single “Apeshit.”

The six-minute visual experience was filmed in Paris’ Louvre museum, which means there are plenty of recognizable works of art in the background. The Mona Lisa, an oil painting of Napoleon, and a marble statue of Greek goddess Nike are all easy enough to spot, but unless you’re an art historian, there’s probably not a ton of connection between these modern music icons and their surroundings.

That’s why Twitter user Heidi Herrera decided to put her art history degree to use and break down all of the different references and juxtapositions she could spot. It doesn’t take long into reading Herrera’s analysis for you to realize there’s very little about this video that wasn’t thoroughly planned out by the Carters and their team.

Herrera starts by pointing out that centering Black bodies in a space that predominantly features art of white subjects, made by white artists, intended for white audiences is radical unto itself.

“The first shot of the duo is in front of the Mona Lisa, the most recognizable portrait in the museum,” Herrera wrote on Twitter. “People from around the world flock to the Mona Lisa to take their picture with her. Beyoncé… is visually asserting herself as Mona Lisa.”

Herrera then goes on to explain how positioning herself next to statues of Winged Victory (Nike) and the Venus de Milo reframes the themes those statues embody and introduces the idea of “both goddesses of beauty and victory as a black woman. This dismantles white-centric ideals of beauty.”

One painting of Napoleon bears special significance because of the waves of imperialism and colonialism his reign ushered in worldwide.

Beyoncé, decked out in the recognizable Burberry plaid, is donning her own updated version of royal “expensive fabrics” that would have seemed high-status in a colonial context.

The sociopolitical references Herrera caught were myriad. From depictions of empowered Black femininity:

To celebrating Black love and commenting on systemic violence against Black bodies:

It’s certainly enough to make giving the video a second or fifteenth watch.

You can check out Herrera’s full thread here.

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*First Published: Jun 18, 2018, 1:35 pm CDT