The man behind Kanye West’s range of album artwork for his latest album, My Dark Twisted Fantasy, painter George Condo talks to NYMag about the series of album covers, explaining the contexts of Power, Ballerina, Head with sword, Headless Crown and a newly unveiled fifth cover, titled Priest [pictured above].
“He’s lost in the world,” Condo says, of [Headless Crown] that Kanye showed during a recent web chat. “All of a sudden, he was gone. The crown was there, the sword was there, but his head had disappeared. You feel his presence but you don’t see him. He’s been somehow reduced to symbols.” He describes this painting as “a variant, like an outtake,” and hints that it may not in fact be the fifth cover. (Just before getting on the phone, Condo was visited by a Def Jam representative with the album’s final packaging.) “That’s the funny thing,” he says lightly. “This will all come out and there’ll be a few surprises. You can always trust Kanye for a surprise.”
Surprise! Def Jam sent us [Priest] on Friday, telling us to use it to replace the painting of the headless crown. Explains Condo: “[Kanye and I] talked about paintings in the early baroque era depicting religious figures, and wanted to push that out into the open in today’s world. It mirrors the ‘paranoid’ riff on one of the tracks.” –NYMag
In the interview with, Condo also speaks of the ‘controversial’ Naked sphinx straddling Kanye piece, which the rapper declared had been banned.
“That’s a good painting,” Condo says matter-of-factly. “She’s a kind of fragment, between a sphinx, a phoenix, a haunting ghost, a harpy. And then Kanye is also in some sort of strange 1970s burned-out back room of a Chicago blues club having a beer — so far away from the real Kanye West that it’s just a scream.”
In painting Kanye in such an outrageous situation, Condo says, “I was challenging him with the imagery as well. He said, ‘I’m shocked, but I like it, and I gotta go with my gut feeling.’” This cover’s already been banned by Wal-Mart and Apple’s iTunes Music Store, much to Condo’s disgust. “The superimposition of people’s perceptions on a cartoon is shocking,” Condo scoffs. “What’s happening in their minds should be banned. Not the painting.”
>> Read the full interview with George Condo at NYMag.