Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rap is something you do, Hip Hop is a way of life...

There is a pretty cool exhibit on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery through late October which features Hip Hop and contemporary Portraiture. The exhibit contains a blend of photographs, Graffiti, and modern intepretations of classic portraits using Hip Hop icons. The exhibit is somewhat limited, leaving you wanting more, but that is probably more of a tribute to the artist's originality and a desire to see more, than the exhibit being truly lacking.

It is interesting to see Hip Hop embraced at this level, given that for so long it was considered more of a sub-culture (if not a total counter-culture). Twenty years ago, this sort of graffiti was considered vandalism and it's creators the dregs of society. Now it is on display in the same building which houses one of the most famous paintings of George Washington.

There is an interesting bit to that as well.

We had a hard time making our way to the wing which features the portraits of the presidents. There was a hugh bottleneck at the bathrooms before you reached that wing. Why the bottleneck?

Well in the hallway, above the water fountian is a portrait of Steven Colbert in front of a portrait of Steven Colbert in front of a portrait of Steven Colbert (see random photo plucked from Google images above).

After first being rejected by the National Museum of American History, Colbert petitioned the Smithsonian to display his portrait, who agreed to "go along with the joke," though they stress that it is only temporary. Colbert said "I don't mean to brag, but as it contains three portraits, my portrait has more portraits than any other portrait in the National Portrait Gallery." (Wikipedia).

Now here is the real kicker. Despite the portrait being a bit of a "joke" and the Smithsonian's reluctance to display it, the crowd waiting to get a glimpse of it was easily ten-fold of that found in front of ANY of the portraits in the presidential wing. I would wager that portrait is fully driving a third of the traffic to the museum, if not more.

Something tells me Colbert would be pleased.

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