Top Celebrity Art Collectors: Swizz Beatz & Alicia Keys

 May 19, 2019

Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys
Recording artists Swizz Beatz (L) and Alicia Keys. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for NARAS



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Collecting Vibe: Super-saturated, pop-inflected, larger than life.  

Favorite Artists: Music impresario Kasseem Dean (better known as Swizz Beatz) and his wife, musician Alicia Keys, are two collectors with an increasingly large art-world footprint. (He says he bought 70 works last year alone.) He’s a superfan of Brian Donnelly, aka KAWS, and has one of the artist’s enormous wooden sculptures in his home. In one Instagram post, Dean and the artist are perched on the 19-foot-tall figure’s feet; in the background, a mirror reflects Kehinde Wiley‘s massive Femme piquée par un serpent (2008). And, not for nothing, the photo credit is given to Jordan Casteel, who is on her own upward trajectory helping to usher in a new era of figurative portraiture.

The musical couple also owns work by Nina Chanel Abney, Dustin Yellin, Erik Parker, Michael Vasquez, Peter Saul, and an X-Men-themed painting by Hebru Brantley. The duo make it a point through their nonprofit, The Dean Collection, to support emerging artists like Carlita Lopez, a Bronx-based photographer, and are deeply committed to highlighting the works of contemporary African American artists including Henry Taylor, Derrick Adams, Cy Gavin, Arthur Jafa, Deana Lawson, and Tajh Rust. Like most celeb collectors, they also own works by the holy trinity of “classic contemporary” art collecting: Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol.

Dean also has the largest collection of Gordon Parks photographs in private hands, some of which will go on view at Harvard this spring, according to T magazine.

Notable Transactions: In addition to KAWS’s massive sculpture At This Time (2013), the artist leveraged his clout to bring home Tanda Francis’s sculpture from its installation at Socrates Sculpture Park. He also has engineered a number of exhibitions and initiatives, from the annual No Commission art fair to a grant program for artists to mount their own shows. On February 14, a show organized in part by Dean and curated by Nicola Vassell (an advisor to Dean and veteran of Pace Gallery and Deitch Projects) called “Dreamweavers” opens at UTA Artist Space in Los Angeles to coincide with Frieze L.A.

Also Worth Knowing: Dean joined the board of the Brooklyn Museum in 2015, is a staunch advocate for artist resale rights, and says he’s never sold a work from his holdings, only traded. He also had a role in shaping friend Sean Combs’s taste. He told that he dissuaded the musician from buying a subpar Picasso lithograph when the pair visited Art Basel Miami Beach one year. “I told him, ‘That’s a bathroom piece, bro,’” he said. “And the gallery was so mad at me.”

Originally published at artnet News

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