Reggaeton rapper and global superstar J Balvin has been named the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s inaugural “cultural ambassador,” the institution announced this Monday, November 14. In his new role, the Colombian singer will collaborate with the museum on creating video and social media content to reach new audiences. Balvin will also participate in “in-person engagements” with the Washington, DC-based contemporary art museum.
“It’s an honor to be associated with a museum that is centered in contemporary art, has a strong national and global reach, and believes art is for everyone,” J Balvin said in a statement. “I understand how important creative self-expression can be in promoting mental health and wellness. I am proud to support the Hirshhorn’s mission to connect a global audience with the museum’s innovative art education programs, especially for young adults.”
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In his 2020 documentary The Boy from Medellín, Balvin discussed his ongoing struggle with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, and has been open about these topics on social media. In September, he released a bilingual mental health app called OYE.
Balvin — who has won eleven Billboard Latin Music Awards and six Latin Grammy Awards and released fun summer party hits like “Mi Gente” and “Ay Vamos” — is also an art collector. In his home in Medellín, Colombia, Balvin likes to show off works by Kaws and Takashi Murakami, both of whom he considers friends.
But the singer has also come under scrutiny in the past for what some consider to be his appropriation of Afro-Caribbean musical traditions and his erasure of Black contributions to the genre, which culminated in his acceptance of an award as Afro-Latino Artist of the Year from the African Entertainment Awards — despite the fact that he is not Afro-Latino. Balvin also faced backlash after including racist and sexist imagery of Black women in an October 2021 music video.
In its press release announcing Balvin’s ambassadorship, the Hirshhorn praised him for his work drawing on diverse musical influences and his creative wellness advocacy, celebrating a partnership that “stands to energize global audiences by connecting them with the most exciting artists of our time.”