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The Artist Who Inspired Kanye West’s ‘Famous’ Thinks the Video Is ‘Extraordinary and Bold’

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Kanye West’s controversial video for “Famous” has been making headlines for its nude depiction of celebrities like Taylor Swift, Rihanna, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Amber Rose, and Ray J tangled up in bed together, in a bizarre but intriguing tableaux of his oft-dramatic relationships with other celebrities. See the NSFW comparison here.

However, West, the self-proclaimed “greatest artist of all time” pulled major visual inspiration from another artist — realist painter Vincent Desiderio, whose 2004 piece, “Sleep” debuted at New York’s Marlborough Gallery and was later completed in 2008.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Desiderio — who is also a visiting critic at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts — reveals that he was not only supportive of the rapper’s artistic vision, but that he was happy with the end result.

“It’s an extraordinary and bold and different move for Kanye West,” he said. “And what I would say is that it is the clearest indication of his overall intentions as a person utilizing the media and working within it. I was absolutely floored and incredibly flattered and incredibly happy to see the video, which I think is really beautiful.”

Desiderio also disclosed that he found a kindred creative spirit with West, whom he respects as an artist in his own right.

“I think he and I are on the same page and he knows that, I know that. We both acknowledge that we are one brain, two bodies. He’s quite a remarkable man, not withstanding all the nonsense that accompanies a man strapped to a rocket, who sometimes is either misquoted or is compelled into a position that can frustrate someone.

Think of how Andy Warhol was intentionally misconstrued because he put himself out there to be misconstrued. Think about how his whole life was a performance piece and then you understand why Kanye at one point said, ‘I’m Andy Warhol.’ The way we’re thinking about Kanye West and the way he’s portrayed, there’s an orchestration to it, but social media is so large right now that it spins wildly out of control. Fundamentally, he’s an artist and I have total respect for him.”

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com