Swizz Beatz and Kehinde Wiley Are Inspiring Tomorrow’s Artists
Nov. 21, 2019
By: Ryan Waddoups
Swizz Beatz has always set ambitious goals for himself. His latest project—The Dean Collection, an expansive arts center he plans to open next year in upstate New York—aims to be nothing short of “a global creative community,” he said the other day. “I realized I wanted my children to have a place where they could always be inspired and see themselves in.” The sprawling 200,000-square-foot complex that he developed with his wife, singer Alicia Keys, will not only give his collection a permanent home, but also offer programs that teach artists and musicians how to navigate business in the creative fields. There are also plans to make spaces for residencies, workshops, and performances.
Though best known as a music industry titan, Swizz Beatz, born Kasseem Dean, has for years been an avid collector of contemporary art. “It became a passion once I began meeting contemporary artists and developing friendships with many of them,” says Dean, whose growing collection includes works by art stars such as Arthur Jafa, KAWS and Deana Lawson.
When the Dean campus opens to the public next year, visitors can see those and many others by a variety of artists. While his big-picture plans are still in the early planning stage, Dean is set to reveal much more about them during a discussion with his friend, Kehinde Wiley, during Art Basel Miami Beach. There, on December 2, he and the renowned painter (and portraitist of former President Barack Obama) will sit down for an expansive conversation, organized by Creative Minds Talks, at the New World Center about the state of activism and philanthropy, and give their insider perspectives on the art world’s next big names and the key to staying power.
The event’s ticket proceeds will benefit Black Rock, a new artist-in-residence program developed by Wiley in Dakar, Senegal, that “works to inform a new global discourse about what Africa means today,” he says. Black Rock invites a global slate of 16 multidisciplinary artists to a newly constructed waterfront compound to live and work for up to three months, offering free room and board, individual studios, and language tutor.
Wiley tapped Dean to serve as one of Black Rock’s inaugural committee members, charged with selecting the first round of resident artists. The opening, Dean recalls, “was an epic moment. I’ve always admired Kehinde—he pushes beyond the limit of what’s possible.” The two met when Wiley first supported No Commission, the free art fair launched by Dean that gives artists 100 percent of all their sales proceeds. “He set the tone for others to follow his lead and get involved.”
Dean hopes the conversation will spark other aspiring creatives to follow their lead, and so Creative Minds Talks is underwriting 120 tickets for students and teachers to attend the event and meet both speakers. “Creatives hold the keys to culture,” he says. “Any opportunity to inspire the next generation of creatives is a good one to come together.”