Alicia Keys & Swizz Beatz Bring Their Art Collection to the Brooklyn Museum


In early 2015, Swiss Beatz was studying the wall texts for Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, Brooklyn Museum’s retrospective of the portraitist’s career. As he has told the story multiple times before, Beatz noticed that no Black collectors were listed as owners of the pieces on exhibit. So he asked Wiley about it.

“He was already over it,” Beatz recalls. According to him, while Wiley would have loved for his work to be owned by more Black collectors, he had resigned himself to the fact that “our culture wasn’t messing with him.”

The interaction led Beatz, who had been buying art for about 15 years at that point, to purchase one of the largest pieces in the show. Now that work, Wiley’s Femme pique par un serpent, an eight-foot mural featuring a sitter in a zip-up hoodie, fitted cap, gold Adidas sneakers, and low-slung baggy jeans that reveal the top of his Hanes briefs as he lies, twisted in an almost sensual position, sits as a centerpiece of sorts for a new Brooklyn Museum show. In Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, the Deans display the collection that is, in part, a result of that conversation with Wiley (Beatz’ given last name is Dean).

Femme piquée par un serpent by Kehinde Wiley. 2008, oil on canvas.

The Dean Collection

“Giants was always going to be the major thesis of the show, that was really important to the Deans,” show curator Kimberly Gant tells W of the exhibit which contains work by Derrick Adams, Mickalene Thomas, Nick Cave, Jamel Shabazz and more culled from the larger Dean Collection, which boasts the latest private holding of Gordon Parks imagery. It’s a concept that the Deans dive into in a video interview that runs on a loop in the show.

Breezy Boy Breakers, Midtown, Manhattan by Jamel Shabazz. 2011, cromogenic print.

Dean Collection

Untitled, Miami, Florida by Gordon Parks. 1970, printed 2018, gelatin silver print.

Dean Collection

“The artists are giants,” they say. In another section of the video, Beatz recounts the Wiley acquisition, which he says was the beginning of the collection’s journey. “The people are giants, and the works they are going to see are these giant, oversized works.”

Soundsuit by Nick Cave. 2016, mixed media including buttons, wire, bugle beads, metal, mannequin.

Dean Collection

With about 100 pieces, Giants sings mostly in its large-scale work. Those pieces include the Wiley mural, which is inspired by an 1847 Auguste Clésinger marble sculpture of the same name, as well as Arthur Jafa’s “Big Wheel 1,” an eight-foot-tall sculpture crafted from a monster truck wheel wrapped in chains. The design of the ornate colossal structure, covered in chains, gives the illusion of a medallion, or possibly an oversized gong, but the work itself contends with slavery, the automobile industry, and the general subjugation of Black people in Jafa’s native Mississippi.

Big Wheel I by Arthur Jafa. 2018, chains, rim, hubcap, tire.

The Dean Collection

Another piece, the 21-panel mural from Botswana-born artist Meleko Mokgosi titled “Bread, Butter, and Power” envelops an entire room, depicting a series of painted scenes: school girls outside of a classroom, possibly posing for a picture, someone reclining on a couch, an older woman sitting on a piece of cardboard while a man sits, feet away from her in a chair.

“That work has so much in it that it would take me a long time to go through things, but overall he is thinking about knowledge, history and culture and the incredible nuances that we think we know and that we ultimately never know completely,” Gant says. “Bread, Butter, and Power” opens a section of the show titled “Giant Conversations,” which addresses issues faced by Black people throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. “It’s an incredibly powerful depiction, and I think people want to spend some time there. It’s about gender relations, intergenerational knowledge, fantasy and reality, history, language, economies—there’s just so much in every panel.”

But the show’s true power is in its intention. In one corner, hung salon-style, is a series of beach and quarry landscapes from contemporary American painter Barkley Hendricks. They are lesser-known works than his large-scale portraits. But, according to Hendricks’ wife, they were some of his personal favorites.

Barkley Hendricks, oil on linen.

Barkley Hendricks, oil on linen.

Barkley Hendricks, oil on linen.

Instillation view of Barkley Hendricks, oil on linen.

“It goes to remind us how the commercial world can set a path for how they want an artist’s career to go, even though the artist themselves may want it to go differently,” Gant says.

In Giants, you find a collection of art amassed by artists (an opening section outlines the historical backdrop for the Grammy-winning pair) intent on change. They are purchasers of large-scale pieces which are known to be more difficult to sell. They are Black collectors buying pieces from Black artists, something that has not been historically common. With this exhibit, Beatz and Keys encourage viewers to consider what it is to not only see themselves reflected in these spaces but to live with the work—throughout the gallery, pieces are staged opposite rugs and couches for crowds to take the time to get comfortable enough to spend time with them. The hope is to allow viewers to imagine having similar artworks in their own homes, possibly soundtracked to some Marvin Gaye-heavy playlist like that of the Beatz-curated one that plays in the exhibit.

From the Dean Collection, Installation view, Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, February 10, 2024 – July 7, 2024.

Photo: Danny Perez

From the Dean Collection, Installation view, Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, February 10, 2024 – July 7, 2024.

Photo: Danny Perez

“I think there’s been a lot of discussion on the Deans and who they are and their collection, but also it’s a show where we just want you to enjoy yourself too,” Gant says. “I hope people take that with them. [If] you have a problem with it being a show of a celebrity’s private collection, I can’t control that. But what I can control is whether or not we selected good work and put it together in a narrative that people have access to. I think we did that and did it in a way that isn’t so serious. “

“You can really enjoy yourself,” she adds.

Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys is on display at the Brooklyn Museum from February 10, 2024 – July 7, 2024.



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top