Topping the Steps and the World: The Carters in the Louvre

The Carters’ APES**T music video opens with black man with angel wings on the steps of the Louvre. He wears ripped jeans and sneakers and no shirt. Later, two black women sit on the floor, facing away from each other, linked by white fabric on both of their heads. They are placed in front of the painting, Madame Récamier, which features a white woman sitting on a sofa. The real women on the floor are set up to imitate the sofa’s arms: the women are pillars for classical, western (white) women. Throughout the video, the audience sees rows of women of all different races lying down, doing a series of choreographed sit-ups. These images completely contrast with their stunning backgrounds (the second image of the video is of a stained glass ceiling), creating an expectation that nothing can top the beauty of the museum. 

The Carters’ placements and costumes destroy this expectation. Beyoncé and Jay Z stand together wearing pastel suits, the Mona Lisa centered behind them. Another shot of them at the top of a staircase, in front of the statue, Victory of Samothrace Landing. Beneath them, the women do their sit-ups, laying on the steps. This time, Beyoncé and Jay Z are wearing all white, matching the Venus statue behind them. This shot casts the Carters as literally at the top. Further, the fact that the Carters were able to rent out the Louvre, a museum often considered to house the pinnacles of art and beauty, to film the APES**T video is implicit. This feat should be impossible, and can only be accomplished by those at the very top of the cultural and financial ladder. 

APES**T serves as reminder that Beyoncé and Jay Z are two of, if not the most, successful musical artists of the present. The Carters do few things in the video: Beyoncé dances occasionally, often surrounded by a group of dancers, but she and Jay Z mostly stand, posing. They complement the art; the video posits that the two of them belong in the Louvre. They are beauty, they are success. They don’t need to prove their worths, they simply belong. They have overcome hardship, particularly black hardship, which can be seen in the lack of POC representation in the Louvre’s artwork. The Carters, through APES**T, insert themselves into a “white” space and prove that they belong in the Louvre, to the Western canon of high art. Like all art museums, the Louvre is inherently exclusionary, and its barriers can only be broken by the finest

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