Is Diddy’s New Black News Network a Ripoff of Artist Kahlil Joseph’s Acclaimed Venice Biennale Project? Some Critics Think So
Film director Barry Jenkins is among those taking to Twitter to point out the similarities.
Music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs surprised fans over the weekend by announcing the launch of a new platform, “Black News,” to report current events from the perspective of the black community.
This might be welcome news to many, but for some, it brought about an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu. Artist, filmmaker, and music video director Kahlil Joseph, creative director of Los Angeles’s Underground Museum, presented a strikingly similar concept at the 2019 Venice Biennale with his video, BLKNWS.
And it didn’t take long for many in the cultural community—including Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk director Barry Jenkins—to point that out.
Diddy introduced his latest endeavor in an Instagram video: “I always wanted to develop a platform to report the news from our perspective, from our lens, from our people—so I decided to launch ‘Black News,'” he said.
The framing echoes the thinking behind Joseph’s project, which Artnet News editor-in-chief Andrew Goldstein described as “a two-channel video that imagines a cable news network animated by a cosmopolitan, culturally omnivorous, politically engaged, art-loving, and intellectual black sensibility—a bit like if BET merged with CNN and then merged with Artforum and the New Yorker.”
Joseph has declined to comment on the similarity, but his fans and colleagues haven’t been so circumspect. While no one person could make an exclusive claim to such a big idea, some have pointed out that it is unlikely that Diddy was unaware of Joseph’s work, and expressed disappointment that the precedent went unacknowledged.
“At first I was SURPRISED then delighted that Kahlil and Diddy came together but then I checked and… I’m sorry but this ain’t right,” Barry Jenkins wrote on Twitter. “It illustrates how one can collect art without SEEING it. Bcuz how can Kerry James Marshall be on your wall but u not know of Kahlil Joseph?”
It would be easy to assume that Combs had teamed up with Joseph to bring BLKNWS to a wider audience. The musician is also a high-profile art collector who has been known to make the rounds at Art Basel Miami Beach with art advisor Maria Brito—she helped him pull the trigger on his $21.1 million purchase of Marshall’s Past Times (1997) at Sotheby’s in 2018.
And even if Combs were not so embedded in the visual arts, Joseph has close ties to the music industry, having directed music videos for the likes of Kendrick Lamar and FKA Twigs. His most high-profile project, creating the visual album for Beyoncé’s Lemonade, was nominated for an Emmy.
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