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Is Grace Jones’s Image Art?

20th century

Is Grace Jones’s Image Art?

Hey, music fans, yet another post for you! I’m sure you’ve heard Libertango and know its author, Grace Jones, who was a music legend of the 70s and 80s (her animated music videos featuring fantastic collages sweep off the feet with their originality!). But can we call her a visual artist? Is her image as a music icon art?

Jean-Paul Goude, Grace Jones / Slave to the Rhythm, 1982, grace jones art

Jean-Paul Goude, Grace Jones / Slave to the Rhythm, 1982, © Jean-Paul Goude

Grace’s image owes a lot to Jean-Paul Goude, a French artist, illustrator, and graphic designer who met her one night in New York in the late 70s. Their resulting collaborative, and romantic, relationship is one of the most influential in the history of music, as well as art history, as it is one of the exponents of postmodernism.

Grace Jones in a maternity dress designed by Jean-Paul Goude and Antonio Lopez, 1979 © Jean-Paul Goude, grace jones art

Grace Jones in a maternity dress designed by Jean-Paul Goude and Antonio Lopez, 1979 © Jean-Paul Goude

Goude designed her album covers, directed her videos but was not a sole author of the iconic image. It was Jones, who had close ties with the world of high art, she knew Pop artists such as Andy Warhol, or street artists like Keith Harring, and her style was described by some as neo-cubist.

Cry Now, Laugh Later by Jean-Paul Goude, 1982, grace jones art

Jean-Paul Goude, Grace Jones for Cry Now, Laugh Later, 1982, © Jean-Paul Goude

 In 2012 Jean-Paul Goude said: “She’s feminine, no doubt about that, but I’ve always thought that she was far more beautiful without the artifices she employed to make herself more feminine. I tried to emphasize that body shape through a sort of minimalist German expressionism, with its games of shadows and its angular shapes.”

Jean-Paul Goude, Au ciel et sur la terre: La Vie En Rose Grace Jones, grace jones art

Jean-Paul Goude, Au ciel et sur la terre: La Vie En Rose (Libertango) by Grace Jones, 1981 © Jean-Paul Goude

However, Goude’s treatment of the Jones’s image is highly controversial since many saw it as a hypersexualization and exotizing of a black female body. Many called it an exploitation and fetishization in which Grace was just an instrument, a hyperbole for Goude’s ideas. However, Jones never felt this way. What do you think?

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.


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