You already know how you feel about Kanye West. Presumably, you either exalt him as one of the greatest artists and Renaissance men of our era, or you’ve yet to let Yeezus into your heart and still perceive him as that loudmouthed jerk who interrupted Taylor. There have been many faces to Kanye West over the course of his sprawling career—his music epochs, his tabloid controversies, his side projects—and yet public reaction to him remains fairly binary.
Los Angeles-based artist TheMostFamousArtist—civilian name Matty Mo—has curated what might be the first adequate shrine to such a polarizing figure. Wrangling what he purports to be the world’s largest collection of Kanye West portraits, donated from other artists across the globe, Mo is attempting to create art of his own by presenting his West menagerie as a religious altar at which the audience might worship.
Viewers walking into the exhibit—titled Kanye Loves Kanye and open at 1820 Industrial Street in Downtown Los Angeles until tomorrow—one at a time, hear a recording of Buddhist bells and monk chants as the collection of portraits fans out at their feet. Candles and incense bring home the religiosity of the experience. Mo tells Complex he felt the need to curate the exhibit as it’s exactly what Kanye himself would have done.
“I want to display this work in a performative way that represents how I view Kanye as an artist,” says Mo. “It ought to create a line around the block, as well, which is very much in line with most of what Kanye puts out.”
Over 60 artists have donated to the exhibit so far, and Mo predicts that number will grow. Ultimately, he’d like to take the exhibit on tour, and he’s counting on the exponential coverage of contributing artist retweets and Instagram posts to get him there. The project is as much an exploration of social media reverse engineering as it is a tribute to the rapper. Complex spoke with four of the portrait artists to see what they learned about Kanye, themselves, and the state of modern art from participating in the exhibit.