Photographer Heji Shin's latest exhibition explores our relationship with Kanye West. At the Kunsthalle Zürich, the German-Korean artist has mounted billboard-sized images of the rapper, recreating what the museum calls West's "larger-than-life" work and media presence.
Having gotten West's contact details through a friend, Shin met with the star multiple times and accompanied him on his trip to Uganda last October, where she took a portrait of the rapper and his daughter North. The rest of the images are the result of a 10-minute photo shoot in Los Angeles.
“At that time, I wasn’t particularly interested in his comments on slavery, if he liked Trump, or if he did his incoherent tweets,” Shin told artnet. “But it changed quickly when I saw people getting really mad. I was interested in how the media portrayed him all of a sudden when he expressed his opinion.”
Of course, an exhibition dedicated to West was always likely to attract negative attention, with Instagram posts of the show by the Kunsthalle Zürich and Artforum being met by comments like "Fuck this garbage" and "What a waste of space."
“I knew people would hate this exhibition,” Shin explained to artnet. “This desire to have art meet their moral and political standards has always existed. Today, more than ever, art is considered as the ultimate validation. It’s easy to agree with publicly approved opinions. It protects you.”
Shin has never shied away from controversy. In 2017, the photographer shot an Eckhaus Latta campaign that featured real-life couples having sex, while her previous series "Babies" gave viewers an up-close view of babies being born.
Shin's images of West ask us to consider the false intimacy of being a fan (or a hater) and the media-made image of celebrities. That idea is juxtaposed by a series of self-portraits made using an X-ray that literally exposes the artist right down to the bones.
Browse images from the exhibition above and then head to Kunsthalle Zürich for more information.
Kunsthalle Zürich Limmatstrasse 270 CH-8005 Zürich, Switzerland
In other news, Kanye West recently donated $10 million to James Turrell's extinct volcano art project.