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Kanye West: Famous video recreates Vincent Desiderio Sleep

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Johnny Nunez/WireImage

Friday’s reveal of Kanye West’s music video for “Famous” proved difficult to ignore. Among other eye-popping moments, the rapper featured a scene of figures in the likeness of celebrities — including Donald Trump and Taylor Swift — sleeping naked in a bed. Art buffs may instantly recognize the connection between the image and the 2008 painting Sleep, by Vincent Desiderio. 

West commented on the artist’s inspiration during an event in Los Angeles’ The Forum in conjunction with the video premiere. Desiderio is a New York-based painter and sculptor, and currently a senior critic at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the New York Academy of Art. The stimulus for Sleep, first presented in 2004 as a work in progress, was his struggle with a rare form of nasal cancer.

“I began being visited by this image of a continuous band of sleepers,” Desiderio told The Virginia Quarterly Review. He added, “I mean, it’s not all that mysterious how such a notion might have originated for me, all alone like that, feeling so terribly vulnerable and separated from the world of healthy people, this primitive longing for company, the fantasy affording me a sort of comfort.”

West’s recreation of the painting for “Famous” uses the likeness of himself, his wife Kim Kardashian West, Rihanna, former President George W. Bush, Caitlyn Jenner, Bill Cosby, Anna Wintour, and more. Regarding the nudity, he told Vanity Fair, “We were very careful with shots that had [something] sexual to take them out.” 

See a comparison below (via The Fader).