Kanye West Once Said He Wanted to Live Inside a James Turrell Artwork. So the Artist Blew His Mind by Designing Him a New Home for His Birthday

West spent his 42nd birthday with Turrell at the artist's land art project 'Roden Crater.'

Kanye West. Photo by Jared Siskin courtesy of Patrick McMullan.

Ever since rapper and fashion mogul Kanye West visited Naoshima, the Tadao Ando-designed Japanese “art island” that’s home to three James Turrell installations, in 2018, he’s wanted to live inside the light-and-space artist’s work—literally.

Now, that dream may become a reality.

“Turrell designed an entire home and gave it to me on my birthday” last year in the form of a drawing, West said in a recent interview with GQ. He recalled his first reaction to the artist’s work: “I said, ‘We need to live in a Turrell.’”

Last June, West celebrated his 42nd birthday with the artist at Turrell’s Roden Crater, the artist’s monumental land art project in Arizona’s Painted Desert. When Turrell presented West with the architectural sketch, West’s interior designer Axel Vervoordt, who was also in attendance, was skeptical.

Claudio Silvestrin and Kanye West are planning to build this dome-shaped home at the musician's West Lake Ranch in Wyoming. Rendering and floor-plan courtesy of Claudio Silvestrin.

Claudio Silvestrin and Kanye West are planning to build this dome-shaped home at the musician’s West Lake Ranch in Wyoming. Rendering and floor-plan courtesy of Claudio Silvestrin.

“Axel was saying that James Turrell’s spaces are too pure for us human beings to live in,” West recalled. “I told Axel, ‘You’re not going to bully me on my birthday.’”

West and Turrell have grown close since the rapper and producer donated $10 million to fund the completion of Roden Crater last January. Turrell purchased the dormant volcano in 1979 and has spent the subsequent decades transforming it into a solar observatory. But it isn’t yet open to the public, which made it all the more exciting when West released Jesus Is King, an IMAX film shot inside the installation, to promote his album of the same name, last fall.

The interview with GQ took place across multiple days and locations, including at West Lake Ranch, which the musician recently purchased outside of Cody, Wyoming. The evolving campus, which will feature a building by Italian architect Claudio Silvestrin, as well as projects by Turrell and Vervoordt, is the planned headquarters for West’s futuristic-looking domed structures that he plans to use to house low-income and homeless people.

James Turrell's <em>Roden Crater</em> as seen in Kanye West's film <em>Jesus Is King</em>. Photo courtesy of IMAX.

James Turrell’s Roden Crater as seen in Kanye West’s film Jesus Is King. Photo courtesy of IMAX.

The magazine also paid a visit to West’s Los Angeles home, where readers learn he owns a lens-shaped white fiberglass sculpture by Anish Kapoor. “It’s an amazing piece,” West said. “And now we’re gonna live in one.”

West, whose own high-school artwork recently made headlines when it was appraised for upwards of $20,000 on Antiques Roadshow, and who once declared his Twitter account a work of contemporary art, also had yet another grand pronouncement about his creative endeavors: “Everything I’ve ever done has been an art piece, because I’m an artist.”


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