Back in December, the luxury handbag-loving public was up in arms over Kanye West’s Christmas gift to fiancée Kim Kardashian. It was an Hermés Birkin — though not the run-of-the-mill Birkin you or I are used to getting: This one was hand-painted by artist George Condo, who had previously done the art for West’s 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
Kardashian seemed to love her new customized accessory, which featured three nudes and some sort of nightmarish monster — but the public did not approve (funny, since people are usually so supportive of every decision she makes). Adjectives like “horrific,” “disgusting,” “vile,” “tasteless” and “terrible” were being thrown around willy nilly. Unfazed by the naysayers was West, who it seems had anticipated the overwhelmingly negative reaction all along.
W Magazine spoke recently with Condo, whose work often sells for upwards of $1 million, about the uproar his artistry caused. According to the painter, West — who’s apparently a last-minute shopper — contacted him in December and said, “I really want to give Kim something for Christmas. She has a huge collection of Birkin bags. Maybe you can paint one.” Condo obliged, and in a mere 15 minutes, his creation was complete.
“Kanye and I both knew immediately that people who knew our collaboration would think it was fun but that Kim’s fan base would go berserk,” says Condo.
“The whole point was to take an icon of consumerism and change it, which is like blasphemy. ‘You can’t do this!’ It short circuits people’s concept of what’s untouchable, which is why it was fun to do. If I had just done it and put it in my closet, it wouldn’t mean a thing,” he said, laughing. “But when you stick that bag in the hands of Kim Kardashian, well, then you create a whole different atmosphere. It’s about context.”
So… I’m a little confused. Doesn’t it kind of sound like Condo, himself, recognizes that his painting basically ruined the Birkin? And isn’t it a little depressing that — from how I interpret it, anyway — West would commission him to paint something to cause a controversy, rather than a piece Kardashian would genuinely be happy to own? As someone who can 100 percent appreciate the ridiculousness of the world freaking out over a bag owned by someone they don’t know personally, the whole situation still bums me out — and makes K and K’s relationship feel more like a media ploy than ever.
What do you think: Was West’s present to Kardashian just an attempt to get the paps to snap (and get free publicity for his buddy Condo), or was it a thoughtful gift from a man wanting to share his artistic taste with his bride-to-be?