By Cristina Álvarez Cañas. February 15, 2013


Maybe art is not a such a source of inspiration for pop and rock musicians as much as literature is, at least as far as lyrics are concerned. However, we do find reminiscences of some avant-garde movements of the 20th century in the looks of singers, songs, album covers and even in some band names. Celebrating ARCO'13 and one of the most relevant moments of the year for contemporary art, we have gathered some little brushstrokes –never a truer word– with the mark that certain plastic artists have left in some music performers and their songs.

'Manifesto' - Toulouse Lautrec

All art movements are born with a manifesto under one arm – take the surrealist one, for example, of André Breton, or the futurist one of Marinetti. That is also how Romanian band Toulouse Lautrec presented their first record and, judging by this nod – in French – and the reference in their name to French poster designer and post-impressionist artist Toulouse Lautrec, their interest in art is not just a passing phase.


'Pablo Picasso' - David Bowie

Released in 2003, Reality - the album that included this song – is a relatively recent recording if we take The Duke’s extensive career, now on everyone’s lips due to his recent return to the fold, into account. Although we’ve chosen this version, the truth is that it was the ever magnificent Jonathan Richman who penned and recorded the song with The Modern Lovers in 1972. "Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole Not in New York", the lyrics inform all those who did not and still do not understand the genius from Málaga.

'Ziggy Stardust' - Bauhaus

One of best-known tributes –if not the best one– to avant-garde art is this one by the British post-punk band born in the late 70s. They took their name from the German school of art founded by Walter Gropious in 1919. At the same time, they dare to pay another tribute to Bowie covering his classic Ziggy Stardust.

'Andy Warhol’s Dead' - Transvision Vamp

From cubism to another movement – pop art, which in the eyes of the majority was also personified by one name: Andy Warhol. The creator of The Factory, who was fond of taking Polaroid pictures, gained popularity through his assembly line art and his claim that everyone would be world-famous for fifteen minutes. His relationship with music was cemented by the extremely well-known album cover for The Velvet Undeground & Nico. One of the most brilliant punk rock bands of the ‘80s with a female lead singer, Transvision Vamp, whispered this melancholic track on an album called Pop Art one year after his death, in 1988.

'Jean Michel Basquiat' - The Goonies

 "Don’t worry, I’m immortal" – that was the phrase Warhol’s disciple always had on his lips. His untimely death helped to turn what in reality was a dazzling talent in full flight into a legend - the most important African American fine artist. This song by New Yorkers The Goonies recalls Basquiat’s passion for music and hip hop culture, establishing the group Gray and dedicating himself to graffiti at the end of the ‘70s, followed by work as a DJ.

'Mondrian' - Sonny & The Sunsets

A song lasting less than two minutes, which could easily be a lullaby, and dedicated to neoplasticist artist Piet Mondrian. His “pure art” was transferred to the fashion world by Yves Saint Laurent and, in 2010, to pop music by this band from San Francisco, which is capable of synthesising just as much as the man they are paying tribute to.

'La Silueta De Matisse' - Estambre

French master of expressionism and fauvism, as everyone knows Henri Matisse stood out for his study of colour and the human outline. We don’t have a record of many references to art in Spanish pop music but this is one exception.

'La Culpa De Todo La Tiene Yoko-Ono' - Andrés Calamaro

Beyond the realms of the Beatles and John Lennon, Yoko Ono formed part of the artistic and experimental avant-garde of the ‘60s and the Fluxus. She is the paradigm of this satire about that infantile behaviour that some people carry with them into adulthood - the habit of making others responsible for your own acts. The song forms part of a tribute to activists Def Con Dos.

'Revelations' - Yoko Ono / Cat Power

And one last pick to counter the previous one. In a 2007 album, Lennon’s wife sarcastically admitted Yes, I’m a witch, as if it was nothing. It was one way of responding to those who had been her critics for years. Then Paul McCartney came along to tell her she was right and he admitted that it was not her fault that The Beatles split up. This piano version performed by two rebellious women perfectly summarises with great delicacy the mystery of artistic talent.

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