Inside Jay-Z's 6-Hour Art Performance

Jay-Z performing at the Pace Gallery in New York City (Raymond Hall/Getty Images)
Jay-Z performing at the Pace Gallery in New York City (Raymond Hall/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, New York City was abuzz when news leaked out about a very unique Jay-Z performance happening at the Pace Gallery. For six hours the rapper would be performing the song "Picasso Baby," a single from his new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail. Numerous media outlets rushed their charges out to the scene to capture the show (or exhibit?) on Instagram and Vine. 


New York magazine senior art critic and columnist Jerry Saltz, who was invited to the exclusive performance, took it all in and presents a detailed account of what he saw and experienced as someone who was asked to be a part of the exhibit.

Maybe I was smitten by fame. I stayed for just about the whole six hours, and all I can say is that I don't think I saw one instance where Jay-Z was not totally there, in the moment, working the energy. Very soon, the one-on-one structure broke. He started pulling in people from the crowd, one or two at a time. But mainly it would be the song, then a minute's break; then another person would come to the bench, and the thing would begin again. I gave up on the idea that this was a piece of marathon performance art. Jay-Z was making this up as he went along. Different crowds were ushered in every 90 minutes so. Between those shifts, there were breaks of up to twenty minutes. I took only one break before it ended at 6:45, to run out and grab a quick slice of pizza and some water. By the time I got back, fifteen minutes later, the mood was as high as it had been all day, and a few people said I'd missed "the best one," artist Lorna Simpson strutting her sexy stuff. 

Ryan McGinness used his time to break the rules and select people to stand in front of Jay-Z. In no time, he'd formed a line that Jay-Z began circling. At one point, the sound system broke down, and Jay walked to the rope and said "Anyone here have a special talent?" A ballerina got up on the platform and as he clapped his hands she — I kid you not — did a variation from Pacquita. Then a gorgeous woman with an afro sang En Vogue's "Hold On," and everyone sang along with her. 

Read more at New York magazine.

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Jozen Cummings is the author and creator of the popular relationship blog Until I Get Married, which is currently in development for a television series with Warner Bros. He also hosts a weekly podcast with WNYC about Empire called Empire Afterparty, is a contributor at and works at Twitter as an editorial curator. Follow him on Twitter.