Justin Timberlake Uber-Fan Pays Homage To Pop Prince With Art Exhibit
Nicholas Weist, a New York art curator and Justin Timberlake über-fan, was sipping margaritas with roommates one night while listening to his favorite pop singer, when he had an inspiration.
«We were listening to the [Timberlake] song ‘My Love,’ » Weist recalled. «We were having such a great time listening to the music that I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if that level of excited-ness was funneled into the art world?’ So right then, I knew I had to curate a show about him.»
He elaborated on his revelation in more dreamlike terms. «In the midst of our little party, Justin Timberlake — like an old and terrible god — demanded my attention: ‘You must curate a show about me,’ he said. And three weeks later, out of the darkness was born a show.»
That show, «If I Told You You Were Beautiful Would You Date Me on the Regular?,» which was open for just one night at the Oliver Kamm 5BE Gallery in New York last weekend, is (according to Weist, anyway) the first-ever contemporary art exhibit solely devoted to work inspired by Justin Timberlake. The show included collage, sculpture, site-specific installation, photography, drawing, performance and video art. The variety of media in the show reflects Weist’s fascination with the evolution of Timberlake’s music and image, as well as the pop star’s own forays into other kinds of artistic expression, including film, fashion and television.
«This chameleon aspect was interesting to me,» Weist said. «His career path has been so crazy: child star to boy band to boyish solo artist to more mature solo artist. And all these different incarnations got me thinking about the fluid nature of pop culture itself.»
The unusually short length of the exhibit also makes a point about pop culture: «The whole show was conceived, planned and executed in less than three weeks,» Weist said. «I felt it was necessary to work quickly to preserve the show’s energy and vitality, similar to the way in which stars are created so simultaneously now.»
The opening-night party was attended by more than 500 people, according to Weist, and featured three DJs playing a selection of «My Love»-inspired music. One DJ played only music by T.I. and Timbaland (the other two artists on the song), one music piece related to Justin in a biographical sense (Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera), and another played remixes of Timberlake songs. «As I suspected, everyone in the art world secretly loves Justin,» Weist said.
Weist contacted Timberlake’s management about the show but never got a response. «I wanted Justin to know about the show, because it functioned like a gallery-sized fan letter,» he said.
The only light inside the gallery for the opening party was from a sculpture made by artist Colby Bird, which was a curatorial decision on Weist’s part. «Because there was no overhead light, as more people filled the room it got progressively darker — bodies blocked the light,» he said. «That was important for me, because as more people came, the lighting changed from ‘art show’ to ‘dance party.’ »
One of the works featured in the show was a poster-piece by artist Scott Hug featuring an image of Timberlake from his boy-band days, with an autograph scrawled on it. Hug scanned the image from a book about ‘NSYNC, and then found an autographed message on another poster that was for sale on eBay; Hug copied the message («The world is yours, god bless») by hand and added it to the poster, and signed Timberlake’s name himself.
Of course, Timberlake is hardly the first pop icon to inspire the art world (Andy Warhol, anyone?), and his ex-girlfriend Britney was the subject of at least two last year. In October, the World of Wonder Gallery in Hollywood featured a show of works inspired by the pop diva called «Just Britney,» and in February the London-based Rambert Dance Company performed a 16-minute ballet called «Meltdown» that was inspired by the singer’s recent troubles.
Weist says his primary audience for his show was art aficionados, but he hoped the event stretched beyond it. «Too often, the art world discounts pop culture or shies away from it, when in reality it is a great source of inspiration for many artists.» he said. «I think it’s vitally important that people in the art world think about pop culture, and vice-versa.»
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