Sorry, Donald Trump, but Kanye West has found a new septuagenerian man to fanboy over: the artist and Light and Space movement pioneer James Turrell. West is already so devoted to his new pal, in fact, that last week, he paid a visit to North Adams, Massachusetts to take in his work at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, aka MASS MoCA, where he was joined by the artist himself. Indeed, it appears that Turrell has been returning to the love: he appears to have also invited West himself, judging from the museum’s report that upon his arrival, West told Turrell, “You finally got me here, bro.”
It doesn’t seem, however, that West would have needed much convincing. This is in fact the second pilgrimage he’s made across the U.S. to appreciate Turrell’s work in the past month, meaning that yes, West did managed to get a few things accomplished this past December aside from reigniting his very public feud with Drake. On second thought, though, both of these pursuits just might be connected, seeing as Turrell has another notable rapper fan: none other than Drake.
Years before West found himself inside one of Turrell’s light installations in Massachusetts, Drake paid a visit to the artist’s exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—an experience that clearly stuck with him. The evidence of that has been immortalized in Drake’s music video for his single “Hotline Bling,” which took the internet by storm in 2015, primarily for its extremely Turrell-esque aesthetics.
While Drake didn’t work with the artist, he wasn’t afraid to admit that he’d pretty much ripped him off, mincing no words in telling Rolling Stone “I fuck with Turrell” in 2014. There were, however, no hard feelings from Turrell, who responded to Drake’s statement with one of his own: “While I am truly flattered to learn that Drake fucks with me, I nevertheless wish to make clear that neither I nor any of my woes was involved in any way in the making of the ‘Hotline Bling’ video,” wrote in a blog post titled “What a Time to Be Alive.” Two years later, he was apparently still flattered: “He honored my work and I was flattered by that,” the artist said in 2016. (It’s not hard to see why: “Actually, I’ve enjoyed a lot more attention since he got involved,” he added.)
Turrell, however, appears to have found a new musical pal. Rather than speak about the rapper from afar, this time, Turrell apparently bestowed one of the art world’s most prized gifts upon his newest admirer: an invitation to Roden Crater, which the New York Times once heralded as “one of the most coveted tickets in American art.” Though far from completed, it’s already taken on a mythical status since construction began on an extinct volcano in Turrell’s ranch in northern Arizona in 1974. Along with a naked-eye observatory installed atop a 400,000-year-old crater, even unfinished, it’s already known as the home of Turrell’s magnum opus.
Not that many can attest to that. West is now one of the few people who’ve been allowed past the barb-wire fences that guard the site, which the artist keeps strictly guarded. (Never mind that his foundation touts it as the culmination of his life’s work.) While currently closed to the public, a few years back, Turrell did deign to open its gates for visitors—at least if they were “serious patrons of the arts” willing to fork over a $6,500 fee. Oh, and to make the trek out to the remote, high-altitude region of the Painted Desert during one of just three days in 2015, and wait until the sun sets enough for their to be “truly dark night skies.”
Alas, somewhere along the way, Drake’s own invitation appears to have gotten lost in the mail. West, for his part, has also been repeatedly mentioning Turrell on his Twitter feed—including posting a far from subtle humble brag of a screenshot proving that he recently had a conference call with Turrell and Norman Foster, the architect behind the Millennium Bridge in London. (He’s also been busy retweeting videos posted by the Twitter account Nature is Amazing, including imagery of a prancing Arabian pony, a tarantula, tree frogs, llamas, rainbows, and flock patterns.)
It seems likely that their relationship will continue into 2019. There are, after all, no less than 80 more site-specific Turrell installations for West to visit. (Though his declaration that “We all will live in Turrell spaces” suggests he’s hoping that there will soon be even more than that.)
Still, this is Kanye we’re talking about, who’s not only erratic, but moves fast. It was, after all, less than a month ago that he tapped another figure to guest star in their drama, who bears no resemblance to Turrell whatsoever: one Ariana Grande.