Alice Jones' Arts Diary: Pharrell chews the fat with Zaha Hadid, Jay-Z, and Buzz the rapping astronaut


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Hip-hop artist Pharrell Williams has turned interviewer for a new book, Places and Spaces I've Been, published later this month.

Among his subjects are Zaha Hadid, Hans Zimmer and Buzz Aldrin, who talks about Z particles and the time he made a rap record, “The Rocket Experience”, with Snoop Dogg. “I had a couple of people from my supporting team, the girls, to sing the song along with my rapping”, the pioneering astronaut, 82, tells Williams. “We're not going to make an album.”

Elsewhere, Williams chats to Jay-Z about the influence of Kurt Cobain, and to Kanye West. “I am a visual artist,” the rapper tells Williams. “To this day I can't play a piano. I've taken it up a couple times and I forget how to play. When I first wanted to rap, the first thing I did was actually draw my tape covers... before I even thought about doing music.”

“What is it like to look at things and say to yourself, 'I know that they don't get it but maybe one day they will'?” Williams asks West. “Well, I think it's just if you're a perfectionist, that's just what you do… What can you give to human existence? How can you push the culture forward? If you put out things that are so over-the-top and magnificent, what trickles down from it could at least be good because there are more followers than there are leaders.” Hip-hop braggadocio isn't dead yet.

Public pillow talk while Vuitton's staff sleep for art

Staff at Louis Vuitton's London HQ are being asked to sleep on the job – in the name of art. The maverick Scandinavian artist duo Elmgreen and Dragset who put a rocking horse on the Fourth Plinth, installed a an oversized double bed in the New Bond Street shop last month and employees have been clocking in for two-hour naps daily. From next week, the sleepers will also be offered a bedtime story. The actors Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani, the head of the Serpentine Julia Peyton-Jones and author Tim Lott are among those providing pillow talk. “You're stumbling across a place of sleep. The bedtime stories are meant to be unexpected, a private moment between reader and sleeper. You never know when there might be one happening,” I'm told.

From recording studio to Frieze – a revolution in the art market

It began in a dilapidated recording studio in Primrose Hill three years ago. Now the Museum of Everything is going commercial, with their first selling event at Frieze. Have the original art outsiders now joined the establishment?

“Art fairs are really good opportunities for exhibitions. Curators often deny that the market leads curatorial choice but that really can't be correct”, James Brett, founder of the Museum, tells me. “I learnt early on that the best way to have a revolution is from the inside. The idea is to take a very strong activist position within a commercial environment.” All profits will go towards supporting the Museum's projects, in Moscow, Paris and beyond.

A gallery director with precocious talents

They say you should start kids on culture early but Nicholas Penny took precocious to new levels when he was growing up. The director of the National Gallery first visited his future workplace when he was seven years old.

“I knew quite a few pictures in the National Gallery before I could read”, he tells Frieze Masters magazine. “In fact, I could draw Botticelli's Venus and Mars from memory before I could read or write.” Nobody likes a show-off, Nicholas!