Beyoncé: The artists and artworks that have shaped the music icon's powerful aesthetic

Beyoncé: The artists and artworks that have shaped the music icon's powerful aesthetic

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Text: Aravin Sandran

In 2018, Beyoncé and her baby daddy Jay-Z released "APES**T", the lead single for their collab album Everything is Love. Flexing some serious clout (and money), they were given full reign of the iconic Lourve Museum in Paris for the track's after-dark music video. The Beyhive obviously lost their minds. Grinding and writhing on the floor in floor-length gowns and nude-coloured leotards, Queen Bey spat some killer verses ("Got me so lit, I need Tylenol") in the presence of masterpieces like the gloriously marbled Winged Victory of Samothrace and Leonardo da Vinci's inimitable Mona Lisa

"APES**T" was possibly the most obvious way Beyoncé has referenced high art to elevate not only her long-standing discourse around feminism and the power of black women but also her bougie lifestyle of pricey Patek Philippe watches on her wrists and flashy Lambos in her garage. Here are some of her other lesser-known art history inspirations.

In February 2017, she broke the Internet when she announced that she was pregnant with twins through a series of wonderfully romantic photographs that were shot by Ethopian-born artist Awol Erizku. In one of the photographs, she directly mimicked the gestures and postures of Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus (1486). Besides a pair of see-through floral-printed stockings, she stood almost completely nude. Long wavy hair dropped right down to her waist. One hand covered her breast and the other cradled her pregnant belly. Her gaze piercing through the lens, she looked as ravishing as the goddess of love and beauty, only to be momentarily distracted by a random Egyptian artefact in the corner.

In November 2014, she released the MV for "Mine", which featured Canadian rapper Drake. The video begins with a white-painted boy reclining on her lap as dancers leap and flail their flouncy costumes in the background. She's dressed up in a white veil and a strapless grey and white dress looking almost like the Virgin Mary in Michelangelo Buonarroti’s La Pietà, where she is depicted cradling the dead body of Jesus Christ.

Later on in the same music video, a man and a woman kiss passionately but their heads are covered in white cloth similar to Belgian surrealist René Magritte's The Lovers (1928). 

Strutting down the street in a canary-yellow Roberto Cavalli ruffled number with a baseball bat in hand has to be one of the most talked-about visuals of her 2016 Lemonade album. Yet, it eerily resembled Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist's double-screen video work Ever Is Over All (1997). Shot in slow-mo, Rist skips along a typical city street in a blue dress and red flats. Beaming all the while, she smashes the windows of parked cars with a large red-petalled flower. In "Hold Up", Beyoncé improvised a little more. She added a little more swagger in the hips, replaced the flower with the more aggressive wooden bat and went on to smash not only car windows but a fire hydrant and a surveillance camera. 

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