Kanye West will be receiving his honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago during the graduation ceremony today, following an hour-long lecture he delivered at the school yesterday.
SAIC, one of the most prestigious art schools in the country, said in an email sent to Complex that the honorary doctorate is given to "influential individuals" who earned "this distinguished award through their work, which is always imaginative and aesthetically rich, and sometimes also provocative and controversial, shifting the cultural landscape in significant ways." The recipients are also considered "remarkable examples of creative success and determination, who are often inspirations to our students, faculty, and entire SAIC community."
There has been some backlash surrounding the school's decision to give Kanye the award—an award that's been handed to figures like Jeff Koons, Marina Abramovic, and Yoko Ono. But Dean Lisa Wainwrigh told The Fader back in April that she thinks it's a "high-low problem."
"There's still this sense that high art is what we do, is what we honor, is what we're about. And that pop culture is not what we teach in art school," she said. "Pop culture, mass culture—that's a whole other thing, and we're about high art. I think that's a problem. We're trying to collapse those boundaries a little bit. That's what I like about Kanye."
Kanye will be joined by president and Eloise W. Martin director of SAIC Douglas Druick, gallery owner Rhona Hoffman, Janet Bryne Neiman, and German artist Albert Oehlen—all of whom will also receive the honorary degree.
The ceremony will take place today at 2 p.m. EST. Stream it here.
UPDATE: Kanye West is officially Dr. West now. The rapper just received his honorary doctorate on stage, and as is customary, gave a short speech. After pretending to walk off stage, he talked about what this degree means to him and how much it would've helped his other projects in art, film, and fashion had he been able to say he'd earned one from one of the most prestigious art schools in the country. Read his entire speech below.
"I'm sorry, that's just my opinion. I am a pop artist. So my medium is public opinion, and the world is my canvas. 'I'm sorry' is something you can use a lot, it gives you the opportunity to give your opinion, apologize for it, and give your opinion again. People say, 'You should not be sorry for your opinions.' George Bush...has some very cool self portraits [laughs]. I didn't know he was an artist. I felt my nerves a bit, and I don't feel that feeling a lot. The nerves of humility and modesty when being honored. A humanization, a reality of being recognized, and all I thought as I sit here, kind of shaking a little bit, is I need to get rid of that feeling. I need to not be nervous.
This honor is gonna make your lives easier. Two reasons: You don't have to defend me as much and I'm gonna make all of our lives easier. And it's these Floyd Mayweather belts that are needed to prove what I've been saying my entire life. Whether it's the co-sign of Paul McCartney grabbing me and saying, 'It's OK, he doesn't bite white people.' Or The New York Times cover, or the Time Most Influential cover, and now a doctorate at the Art Institute of Chicago. When I was giving a lecture at Oxford, I brought up this school because when I went on that mission to create in other spaces—apparel, film, performance—it would've been easier if I could've said, 'I had a degree at the Art Institute of Chicago" [laughs]. Thank you."
Watch the full speech below.
UPDATE: And just like that, the gown Kanye wore during the ceremony is already being sold online. It's hard to tell if this is the exact same one he wore, so be careful before you drop $780.
F/S Kanye West Doctorate Graduation Gown. Worn twice this weekend. $780 shipped OBO. pic.twitter.com/WonbKNUA8f— LONG.LIVE.JOFFREY™ (@UnoCincoUno) May 11, 2015