The Artist Who Inspired Kanye West to Sleep with Donald Trump

Vincent Desiderio “Cockaigne,” (1993-2003). The painting was inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “Land of Cockaigne” (1567).

Born in the Philadelphia suburb of Media, Pennsylvania, in 1955, Vincent Desiderio is an American realist painter, whose large-scale, erudite canvases carrying postmodernist allegories, challenge the eye and the intellect of laypeople and art critics alike.

His figurative paintings, filled with dramatic lighting and meticulous details, have been characterized as profoundly emotional. However, Vincent Desiderio once said in an interview: “My pictures have been described as having a lot of emotion in them, but I paint them with ice water in my veins.”

Born to a physician father and a fashion illustrator mother, he did not visit any museums until his middle teens when he became obsessed with Renaissance. He was so fascinated with Michaelangelo that he copied several of the Italian artist’s drawings, and at age 12, he created a copy of “The Creation of Adam” artwork on the ceiling of his family’s garage.

Desiderio lives with his family in Tarrytown, New York, and owns an art studio in a former opera house in downtown Ossining. He currently serves as a senior critic at the New York Academy of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Vincent Desiderio, “An Allegory of Painting,” (2003). In this haunting painting, Vincent Desiderio is depicted in his studio holding and kissing his oldest son Sam. The boy suffered severe brain damage after he had a stroke as a result of a medical procedure at the age of 4.
Vincent Desiderio “Aria,” (2006). The painting depicts Vincent Desiderio’s oldest son Sam and a nurse.

The elaborate masterpieces of multi-grant recipient Vincent Desiderio have been periodically hosted in several museums including the Denver Art Museum, the Everson Museum of Art in Downtown Syracuse, New York, and the Greenville County Museum of Art in South Carolina. His artworks have also been featured at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the Indiana University Museum of Art in Bloomington, Indiana, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City, New York, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

Desiderio’s painting “Sleep,” an 8-by-24-foot hyper-realistic image of twelve people lying naked, which was conceived while he was recovering from a rare form of cancer, was the inspiration for Kanye West’s recent video “Famous.” In his video, Kanye shows a row of sleeping nude celebrities, including himself, his wife, Kim Kardashian and Donald J. Trump.

Vincent Desiderio “Sleep,” (2008).

“The painting that I made is a kind of homage to Jackson Pollock’s painting “Mural” that he painted for the apartment of Peggy Guggenheim, which involves a continuous and repetitive set of marks that calligraphically sort of move across a very wide canvas. It’s been described as an orgy, which is wrong. It represents a communal sleep — which in a larger sense might represent the sleep of our culture, the sleep of reason,” the American artist revealed about his “Sleep” painting.