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Art from the Dean Collection at the Brooklyn Museum

Updated: Feb 12

In recent decades, there has been significant progress in the visibility and recognition of Black Art in the art system.

African-American and diasporic African artists have made significant contributions to the American and the international art scene over the last thirty years.

In a recent conversation with Corinne Erni of the Parrish Museum, Sam Pollard, the Director and Producer of the highly acclaimed film Black Art: In the Absence of Light, recalled that this recognition was made possible in the United States by the efforts of exceptional personalities such as the art historian David Driskell (1931-2020), who curated the landmark exhibition "Two Centuries of Black American Art" at LACMA in 1976, and Thelma Golden, the Director and Chief Curator of Studio Museum in Harlem.

Both have played crucial roles in promoting diversity in museums, galleries, and the art market and in recognizing the significance of being a Black artist on the American scene, where, until the end of the nineties, works by Black artists rarely appeared in galleries or institutions.

 

Private collectors and patrons have also been instrumental in championing Black art, advocating for more institutional acquisitions and giving effective support to Black artists. Among these patrons are the well-known musicians, songwriters, and producers Kasseem Dean (aka Swizz Beatz) and his wife Alicia Keys, whose private collection will be on display at the Brooklyn Museum from today February 10 to July 7, 2024.

The exhibition Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys will showcase a selection of 98 works by artists of color, including Arthur Jafa (with the monumental piece Big Wheel I), Jordan Casteel (with the portrait of Fallou Wadje, a Senegalese-born Harlem fashion designer), Amy Sherald, Kehinde Wiley, Derrick Adams, Nick Cave (whose work in the Dean Collection includes an iconic Soundsuit), Tschabalala Self and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, among others.



Toyin Ojih Odutola (born Ife, Nigeria, 1985). Paris Apartment, 2016–17. Charcoal, pastel, pencil on paper, 59 3/8 × 42 in. (150.8 × 106.7 cm). The Dean Collection, courtesy of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys.

© Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. (Photo: Joshua White / JWPictures.com)


Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (British, born Ghana, 1977), An Assistance of Amber, 2017. Oil on linen 51 1/4 × 78 3/4 in. (130.1 × 200 cm). The Dean Collection, courtesy of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys.

© Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and Corvi-Mora, London


The Dean Collection will become a prominent part of the Brooklyn Museum's permanent collection as a significant gift of works from the private collection will be added to the museum's holdings.

The Deans have been collecting art for over twenty years, focusing on supporting living artists, especially those of color, and building a community among them. According to Swizz, "the collection started not just because we're art lovers, but also because there's not enough people of color collecting artists of color."

He began collecting international Modern and Contemporary Art in the late nineties, studying the artworks and the market and visiting galleries. However, the real turning point came when he realized he could make a more significant impact by buying and supporting African-American Art.

 

The exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum celebrates Blackness and encourages conversations inspired by the works on view, addressing a range of issues such as pride, politics, and women's self-representation. Additionally, the show pays homage to elder and pioneering figures like Gordon Parks (the Deans hold the largest collection of Gordon Park’s photographs), Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barkley L. Hendricks, and Ernie Barnes, who laid the foundation for future generations of artists.



Installation view, Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, February 10, 2024 - July 7, 2024. (Photo: Danny Perez)


Installation view, Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, February 10, 2024 - July 7, 2024. (Photo: Paula Abreu Pita)


Installation view, Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, February 10, 2024 - July 7, 2024. (Photo: Paula Abreu Pita)


Installation view, Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, February 10, 2024 - July 7, 2024. (Photo: Paula Abreu Pita)


Odili Donald Odita (born Enugu, Nigeria, 1966). Place, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 84 × 110 1/8 × 1 5/8 in. (213.4 × 279.7 × 4.1 cm). The Dean Collection, courtesy of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys. © Odili Donald Odita. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. (Photo: Glenn Steigelman)


Gordon Parks. Eldridge Cleaver and His Wife, Kathleen, Algiers, Algeria, 1970. Archival pigment print, frame: 38 × 30 3/4 × 1 1/2 in. (96.5 × 78.1 × 3.8 cm). The Dean Collection, courtesy of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys. © The Gordon Parks Foundation.

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