Top 10 Art References in Pop Music


Artists and musicians alike deal in composition and form, which is probably why classical musical compositions routinely reference works of art. The overlap between art and music continues to grow in popular culture.  Pop videos and album art not only take cues from the contemporary art world but are sometimes the product of an artistic collaboration. These are references you may, or may not, have caught at first glance.

Lady Gaga’s album Art Pop is a collaboration with Jeff Koons

ARTPOP Lady Gaga Jeff Koons


Lady Gaga intended to blur genres by releasing Art Pop. Not only did Lady Gaga and Jeff Koons collaborate on the design for her album cover for Art Pop (2013), they also joined forces in curating an “Art Rave” in Brooklyn, that was attended by a list of who’s who in the art world.

alt-J’s video for the song “Tessellate” references Raphael

alt-J Tessellate Raphael


Raphael’s The School of Athens was originally painted in 1509-1511. More than just a visual reference, the English band alt-J’s take on the Renaissance fresco for their video “Tessellate” (2012) directed by Ben Newbury depicts a modern-day school of philosophy as a gangster’s paradise. Each character in this scene, much like Raphael’s epic, describe mental states with their physical actions.

Beyonce’s video for the song “Mine” references Magritte

Beyonce Mine Magritte


Directed by Pierre Debusschere, the music video for Beyonce’s “Mine” (2013) noticeably quotes Magritte’s 1928 painting, The Lovers. In the video, two masked figures are seen embracing with the same passionate intensity of Magritte’s surreal marvel.

Rihanna’s video for the song “Rude Boy” references Keith Haring

Rihanna Rude Boy Keith Haring


Annie Leibovitz has been known to photograph celebrities and artists alike. Which is why it may come as no surprise that cinematographers have taken inspiration from the celebrity photographer. Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” (2010) directed by Melina Matsoukas makes reference to Keith Haring and the spontaneous photo taken by Leibovitz in 1986, in which the artist transforms himself with his own iconography.

Drake’s video for the song “Hotline Bling” references Turrell

Drake Hotline Bling LACMA


Two years ago, Drake made reference to James Turrell’s exhibition at the LACMA during an interview with Rolling Stone. Now, one year later, his admiration for the artist reveals itself in the music video for Hotline Bling (2015). Fluorescent walls and single-colored rooms evoke Turrell’s art, in which light and space works with amazing scale and endurance.

Kanye West’s album cover for Graduation was created by Takashi Murakami

Kanye West Graduation Takashi Murakami


Kanye West’s infusion of art into his career paths are obvious and well publicized. Takashi Murakami is known for his bobble-head figures, and the two joined forces for Kanye’s cover art for the album, “Graduation” (2007).

Katy Perry’s album cover for Teenage Dream was created by  Will Cotton

Katy Perry California Gurls Will Cotton


A direct collaboration between Will Cotton and Katy Perry, California Gurls takes the same wispy and gorgeous aesthetic of Cotton’s paintings and infuses it into a pop music context. When viewing the music video we are all hard-pressed not to see Cotton’s artistic direction in the 2010 music video. “Cotton Candy Katy” was the direct result of this collaboration and serves as the cover art for her album “Teenage Dream.”

Miley Cyrus’s video for the song “We Can’t Stop” references Barbara Kruger

Miley Cyrus Barbara Kruger


Miley Cyrus draws from Kruger’s declarative captions for her music video, “We Won’t Stop” (2013) directed by Diane Martel. Fitting, as Kruger’s work involving, power, sexuality and identity relate all too well with Miley’s public presence.

Janelle Monae’s video for the song “Tightrope” references Maya Deren

Janelle Monae Tightrope Maya Deren


Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) is an experimental short that shakes our perception of reality. References to the mysterious cloaked figures, whose faces are covered with mirrors, is seen almost identically in Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope” (2010) directed by Wendy Morgan.

Jay-Z’s performance for the “Picasso Baby” video featured Marina Abramovic 

Jay-Z Picasso Baby PACE Gallery Marina Abromovic


With cameos from Marina Abramovic and a live performance in New York City’s PACE Gallery, Picasso Baby is a collision of art and music that debuted in 2013 and predicted the future of art in music.


Featured Image: ARTPOP by Lady Gaga Album Cover Collage