Popular Singers Who Collaborated With Modern Artists

High art and popular culture are often seen as fundamentally different things. Pop artists like Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga create music for the masses, whereas painters like Jeff Koons and Mark Ryden try to cater to the tastes of the select few who can afford to buy their art.

Despite these attitudes, the worlds of high art and popular culture have occasionally collided. Here’s a short list of collaborations between visual artists and popular musicians.

Lady Gaga unveils a statue of herself by Jeff Koons | Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for 42 West

Lady Gaga and Jeff Koons

In 2013, Lady Gaga released the album Artpop. With a title like that, it was only fitting that she would collaborate with artists during the press cycle for that album. Jeff Koons is one of the most financially successful artists alive and he had previously made sculptures of pop culture icons like Michael Jackson, Popeye the Sailor Man, and the Incredible Hulk.

Lady Gaga poses in front of a statue of herself by artist Jeff Koons during the launch of her album Artpop | EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Gaga is a major fan of Koons and vice versa. Koons designed the sculpture of Gaga that is seen on the cover of the Artpop album. Gaga referenced her collaboration with Koons in the lyrics of “Applause,” the lead single from Artpop. In the song, she sings “One second I’m a Koons, then suddenly the Koons is me.”

Michael Jackson and Mark Ryden

The painting on the Dangerous album cover| Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images

Even though Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous isn’t as popular as his earlier albums Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad, it did have the best album cover in Jackson’s oeuvre. The surreal and highly detailed album cover features Jackson’s face behind a mask in addition to a dog on a throne, Venus on a clamshell, an amusement park ride being ridden by skeletons and oversized animals, and dozens of other bizarre images. To truly appreciate this album cover, one must take the time to carefully look over it and absorb its particulars.

The album’s cover was designed by the famous painter Mark Ryden. Fans of the artist will notice that it features many of Ryan’s favorite motifs, including religious symbolism, kitsch, and the macabre. When asked about the album cover, Ryden said “Similar to paintings of Napoleon or Louis IV, I want this to feel like a monumental portrait of the King.”

Katy Perry and Will Cotton

Will Cotton attends George Farias, Anne & Jay McInerney Host A Holiday Party at The Doubles Club | Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Katy Perry has long been fascinated by pop art. She was enamored with the work of photographer Will Cotton. Cotton’s work typically features risque images of women in fantasy settings made out of cotton candy and other sweet treats. She hired the artist to design the cover of her most successful album, Teenage Dream. The cover featured a typical Cotton scene of a nude Perry atop a cotton candy cloud. The cover would help introduce Cotton to new legions of fans.

Alice Cooper and Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí | Photo by Terry Fincher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Salvador Dalí occasionally incorporated celebrities into his work. He created a sofa modeled on Mae West’s lips and an infamous, grotesque painting of Shirley Temple. Alice Cooper was the first celebrity that he collaborated with. Cooper and Dalí admired each other’s work and the two worked together to make a hologram of the former.