Back in 2011, before he was all the waaay up, Drake explained his fiduciary dreams on a song called "Dreams Money Can Buy": I want Saudi money, I want art money. He soon thereafter purchased a Where the Wild Things Are print, but it doesn't seem like he's really made a hobby of collecting, as so many of his contemporaries have. In fact, in that 2014 Rolling Stone profile, he went so far as to suggest that "the whole rap-art world thing… kind of corny."
So he was perhaps not the most obvious rap world candidate to be tapped by bigwig auction house Sotheby's to soundtrack their exhibition of contemporary works by black American artists. But as it turns out, he is a close family friend of one of the contemporary art specialists at Sotheby's. "We really wanted a key tastemaker, someone in black American culture who everyone's got their eyes on," the aforementioned specialist, Jacqueline Wachter, told The FADER. Drake was "really hands on with everything, from the catalogue to the design of the invitation to the song choices to the DJ for the opening party," she said, adding that he was one of the "easiest curators I've worked with by far."
The show, I Like It Like This, which is on view at Sotheby's S|2 gallery in New York through June 12, includes 56 works by some of the most famous names in the genre—20 of which are coupled with a set of Beats By Dre headphones and an iPad cued up with songs handpicked by Drake. A few such pairings include: Lorna Simpson's Portrait with Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money," Jean-Michel Basquiat's Black with Yo Gotti's "Gangsta Party," and Tony Lewis's LOLO with Chief Keef's "Faneto."
Drake did "a scholarly job," Wachter says, but his playlist was not intended to be taken as definitive. Sotheby's and Beats are crowdsourcing other possible audio-visual pairings submitted by visitors using a hashtag system, culminating in, say, Kara Walker and Kehinde Wiley playlists. "It was very important to [Drake] that everyone participate," Wachter says. "He was sort of like, 'I'm not Rick Bradford and I didn't make that painting, this is just what I hear when I see it.' He wanted to know what I hear and what you hear as well."
Which is funny, because at Sotheby's on Tuesday I took in Glenn Ligon's Figure #29 while listening to a dusty delta blues track from the 1930s rather than Drake's intended choice, "Wu-Tang Forever." In fact, during the press preview I attended, every one of the pairings had been set up wrong, for some reason. So does Drake's playlist really make the show? No, not really. The press day fumble calls attention to how the art world benefits from associating itself with names like Drake, regardless of his actual contribution. But there is something special about one of the world's largest and most esteemed auction houses using Chief Keef to help sell works that might sell for many millions of dollars.