When Beyoncé and Jay-Z drop new music, you immediately stop what you’re doing and listen. Even if it’s in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday.
That’s exactly what we (and most of the world) did yesterday, as we struggled to peel our eyes away from their new music video “Apes**t,” which took place in the Louvre in Paris. Yes, the Louvre, the most popular museum on the planet.
With artworks, like the Mona Lisa, Great Sphinx of Tanis, and Nike von Samothrace, serving as visual scenery, the music power couple challenges these famous pieces that widely represent white European culture.
In addition to highlighting the non-white images already in the museum, Bey and Jay upstage the historically white artworks while serving looks and recreating poses.
Read through the hidden messages behind all of the art references in “Apes**t” below.
The Mona Lisa
In coordinating pastel suits, Beyoncé and Jay-Z casually outdo the most famous painting in the entire Louvre: Mona Lisa. The couple offers their own stone-cold facial expressions that mirror the austerity of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting. Meanwhile, in another shot, a dancer tends to a black man’s hair with the masterpiece hanging in the background.
The Great Sphinx of Tanis
The sculpture, carved from black granite, contains the body of a lion and the head of a king, and is notably one of the few pieces that deviates from the theme of white European art at the Louvre. Bey and Jay give the statue the recognition it deserves while rapping some verses in front of its outstretched claws.
Portrait d’une Négresse
Artist Marie-Guillemine Benoist painted “Portrait of a Black Woman” a few years after the official end of slavery, and the striking image is one of the only pre 20th-century portraits of a black person at the Louvre that’s not a slave. The woman depicted in the artwork stares back at the viewer with a straightforward grimace at 5:37 in the music video.
Sarcophagus of the Spouses
Beyoncé and Jay-Z recreate the iconic pose of an Etruscan husband and wife, with a tad more intimacy. Bey lovingly leans into Jay, wearing a traditional headdress and shawl wrapped around her shoulders, as Hova returns the love.
The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon
Black dancers on the gallery floor challenge white authority in front of French neoclassical artist Jacques-Louis David’s painting of a court scene of men at the Notre Dame in the 1800s.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace
Also referred to as the Nike of Samothrace, the white marble statue was first made famous by Audrey Hepburn in the film Funny Face circa 1957. Beyoncé, dressed in all-white, allows her dark skin and natural curls to upstage the light stone sculpture.