Why Are the Kardashians So Obsessed With Art?

Can art buy the reality stars respect?

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The Kardashian Christmas card (from 2010. Photo: Nick Saglimbeni.
The Kardashian Christmas card (from 2010).
Photo: Nick Saglimbeni.
Jean-Paul Goude's photographs of Kim Kardashian on the cover of Paper. The newsstand image to the left is a recreation of the photgrapher's iconic 1976 Carolina Beaumont, New York photograph.
Photo: Jean-Paul Goude.
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala.
Photo: Nicholas Hunt/PatrickMcMullan.com
kanye-kim-gift-homepage
Bambi's portrait of Kim Kardashian.
Photo via Mirror.co.uk.
kimye-wedding-pic
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's wedding photo.
Photo via Kim Kardashian/Instagram.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in his music video "Bound 2." Photo: video still.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in his music video "Bound 2."
Photo: video still.
Kim Kardashian with the Hermes bag Kanye West helped the couple's daughter, North West, paint.ed
Kim Kardashian with the Hermès bag Kanye West helped the couple's daughter, North West, paint.
Photo: Broadimage Newswire.
Kim Kardashian's Hermes Birkin bag, hand-painted by Georg Condo, was a gift from Kanye West. Photo: FameFlynet.
Kim Kardashian's Hermès Birkin bag, hand-painted by George Condo, was a gift from Kanye West.
Photo: FameFlynet.
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at the gala at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo: Steve Granitz, courtesy WireImage.
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at the gala at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Photo: Steve Granitz, courtesy WireImage.

Why are the Kardashians obsessed with art? In their never-ending quest for fame, Kim, Kanye, Kourtney, and the gang’s growing engagement in the art world is just another stepping stone toward burnishing their A-List legitimacy and establishing a lasting celebrity dynasty.

Late patriarch Robert’s high-profile job defending O.J. Simpson aside, the Kardashian’s rise to fame was meteoric, propelled first by Kim’s friendship with Paris Hilton, then by her infamous sex tape, and finally by the family’s hit reality show. Now, they’ve established a global brand, based largely on product endorsements and fashion lines. Through luxury brands and expensive clothing, the Kardashians signify their status as tastemakers.

Kendall Jenner, Kris Kardashian’s 19-year-old daughter with ex-husband Bruce Jenner, is still relying on fashion to legitimize her tabloid-level fame. An up-and-coming runway model, Kendall was recently denied the chance to earn her angel wings by walking her first Victoria’s Secret runway—although over at New York Magazine, the Cut seems to think it was her choice to attend Chanel’s fall show instead.

Lately, however, other Kardashian headlines have been creeping into the arts sections of the newspapers, including here at artnet News. There was the portrait of Kim in Louboutins and a thong that Kanye commissioned from Bambi, Britain’s female Banksy, as a late wedding present for his wife (see “Kanye West Gives Kim Kardashian Nude Portrait as Wedding Gift“). A whole episode of the most recent season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians was largely dedicated to Kourtney’s quest to determine whether a painting inherited by her boyfriend Scott Disick was an authentic work by Amedeo Modigliani. It wasn’t (see “Kardashian’s Dreams Dashed by Fake Modigliani“). And just last month, Kimye showed up at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art annual gala.

Why their sudden interest in art? It’s not that complicated. Blue chip art, like high-end fashion, is a convenient means by which the Kardashians can demonstrate their good taste and near-limitless resources. If anyone has turned taking selfies into an art, it’s Kim (see “Ways of Seeing Instagram“), and even their annual Christmas card (Kristmas kard?) has become a carefully staged affair worthy of any great court portraitist. (Unfortunately, US Magazine reports it won’t be happening this year, post Jenner/Kardashian divorce.)

Many of the klan’s forays into the art world have been through art/fashion crossovers, like the handbag painted by baby North West (see “Kanye and Kim’s Baby North Uses Hermès Bag as Canvas“), but that doesn’t mean that a major auction purchase isn’t in the family’s future—Jerry Saltz didn’t make a case for Kanye and Kim’s “Bound 2” video’s inclusion in the Whitney Biennial for nothing. Even Kim’s so-called Internet-shattering oiled-up bare-butt cover photos for fashion and nightlife magazine Paper, which launched a thousand memes with their debut yesterday, were shot by French graphic designer and photographer Jean-Paul Goude.

Of course, this isn’t a new story. Art has been a status symbol throughout the ages—look no further than the great Renaissance patrons—and our culture of conspicuous consumption is stronger than ever. For better or for worse, art, money, and power are often inexplicably linked, and the Kardashians, it would seem, are no exception.


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