The Best Rappers Alive: Highbrow? Lowbrow? You Decide

The highbrow, lowbrow debate strikes again! This time, in the form of an exhibit at the New Museum. More specifically, a piece entitled “Status Symbols #31” by artist Rashaad Newsome.

“Free,” an exhibit at the New Museum, opened recently and explores the notion of how the internet has transformed the way information is used and obtained. Of all the pieces, what most caught my eye was Newsome’s “Status Symbols #31.” One of two pieces on display, “Status Symbols #31” is a framed collage on paper and part of his “Coat of Arms” series, which the New Museum says “blends eighteenth-century heraldry with today’s pop culture and bling.”

"Status Symbol #31" features a collage of rappers Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne, surrounded by gaudy jewels and set in an ornate gilded frame.

What does this mean? Well, basically Newsome creates a collage filled with rap icons and decadent jewelry and mounts it into a large and substantial gilded frame.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am in no way questioning Mr. Newsome’s artistic talent, but I when I saw this piece, I couldn’t help wondering where it would fall in the “highbrow, lowbrow” spectrum. I mean, cutouts of Jay-Z and Lil Wayne — that can’t be “art”. . . can it?

Well, art it is, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s currently hanging in a museum. But, if it weren’t in a museum, and if it wasn’t created by a well-established artist, would people still take it seriously?

I, myself tend to get more of a visceral response from “traditional” art, where paint and canvases are involved, but that doesn’t mean “Status Symbols #31” is any less credible or artistic. So I turn the tables around to you, dear reader — What do you think? Art or just another magazine cutout project? And, if it is art, is it highbrow, lowbrow, or hi-lowbrow (confusing, I know, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles…)? 

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