The Best, Worst, and Weirdest Art of Musicians Turned Painters
Do you remember the first lockdown of 2020, that long period of sourdough starts, government mandated marches and Tories briefly pretending to care about the NHS? Ah, that was another time, where the hours of the day coalesced into one long scroll on TikTok, and – blessed with furlough payments and free time – many of us went back to low-stakes arts and crafts. that we loved when we were kids. Ultimately, however, some of us have been more successful than others in our creative lock-in pursuits.
Last week, for example, Skepta revealed that he had started painting during lockdown in 2020 and is already set to sell his work at an upcoming Sotheby’s auction. Title Mom goes to the market, the painting depicts three women and a child in a market in Nigeria, with graffiti added by Chito, Slawn and Goldie in a later Givenchy pop-up. Going into the auction, the estimate is £40,000 to £60,000.
The most obvious question people have asked in response to the news: is painting worth it? Or maybe: is it worthy of its place alongside other works that Skepta has chosen to include in the Contemporary Curated sale, by artists like Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Theaster Gates? Obviously, the value of art is subjective, but it also goes without saying that excellence in one creative field (in Skepta’s case, music) does not necessarily translate into another (i.e. say painting). Additionally, Skepta himself admits it is his first and only painting, adding that he felt an urge to paint when his shows were canceled due to the pandemic.
“I just ordered the oil paints and the canvas [on Amazon]“, he explains, in a FinancialTimes interview on Mom goes to the market, and the associated sale. “I’m still a little dazed, because I didn’t do it for all that.”
To some degree, of course, Skepta – like any celebrity – is immune to the kind of disappointment that full-time artists face at auction; this will hardly reduce its revenue from music streams and record sales, with 5.4 million monthly listeners on Spotify. And besides, buyers will often pay a premium for a celebrity signing. So does it even matter if celebrity paintings are good? Presumably it does if you lose £60,000 on them – or maybe not. Then again, isn’t it inspiring for figures already known to the public to show off their budding creative endeavors, regardless of their reception? Skepta’s Sotheby’s auction, which runs from September 7-13, also has the added benefit of drawing attention to a range of contemporary art which the British-Nigerian rapper says summons the energy and colors of his motherland.
In any case, this is far from the first time that a musician has taken up a brush and tried to express himself in a visual medium. At times, this interest preceded their more successful music careers (see: Kanye’s high school artwork on Antiques tour). Other times it comes later, when they have enough time and money to hop on Amazon and spend hours bringing their ideas to life with oil paints (apparently Skepta’s painting took seven days, plus an additional six days to dry).
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best, worst, and weirdest examples in history of famous musicians getting into visual art for your viewing pleasure.