Meet the Artist Who Painted the Kardashians for Kanye West’s “XTCY”

Yeezy contacted Shadi Al-Atallah five days ago to make the painting of the Kardashians and Jenners.

by Rachel Tashjian
Aug 30 2018, 9:10pm

About five days ago, the 23-year-old London-based artist Shadi Al-Atallah got an email. “It was like, we want to commission you to paint some pictures inspired by these images,” she says, “and one of them was a picture of the Kardashians. I was like, Why the hell would anyone want me to paint that?” Then she looked at the email’s signature. “It was like: ‘Yeezy.’ And I was like, Someone’s clearly like, scamming me.”

This may be the summer of scams, but this email was not one of them. It was indeed a real message from Kanye West’s creative team, commissioning her to create the painting that would become the art for the new single “XTCY,” which he officially released Thursday morning along with Al-Atallah’s painting. The photograph, taken at Kylie Jenner’s 21st birthday earlier this month, shows all five sisters mugging at the camera with their middle fingers held high; Al-Atallah’s version renders the women’s features oozy and wacky, their limbs and tongues slathered in sexy and absurd abstraction. Because of the tight timeline, she had about a day to make the painting.

“I’m so in shock,” Al-Atallah says. “I don’t know how this happened. I just graduated, I don’t have any links to any industry—especially not the music industry, whatsoever. So I was in shock.” Al-Atallah guesses that West’s team may have found her through a story i-D publsihed on a group show she participated in earlier this summer.

While the single is catching a lot of heat for its provocative content (the song features a line about having sex with his sisters-in-law very creepy!), Al-Atallah says that although she found the lyrics outrageous, “I’m not gonna lie—I really like the song.”

She continues, “I think the artwork I did fits it, because it’s really weird. I’ve had really negative feedback [on the painting], which I like because I don’t want my work to be really serious. But people were really insulted at how I portrayed the Kardashians and Jenners.”

She said Kourtney was the easiest to portray, but that Kim was the toughest. “I just wanted to get her completely right because—Kanye.”

Al-Atallah hopes to do more work with West’s team, but is still reeling from seeing the painting accompanying the single this morning. “What the hell? This is not a dream!”

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