Some come for the art and stay up for the music; others come for the music and stay on for the art. Either way, visitors who flocked to this week’s Art Basel Miami Beach had no shortage of fairs, parties, and pop ups to keep their feeds fueled. Seeing art and music as “brothers and sisters,” the hip hop artist and super producer Kaseem Dean, aka Swizz Beatz, connected those audiences under one tent with his No Commission Art Fair, a combination art exhibition, speakeasy, hangout space and concert venue in partnership with Bacardi in Miami's Wynwood district.
There, over three nights, the likes of Virgil Abloh, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled, and A$AP Rocky hit the stage. “Art Basel is in the House!” Dean, an avid art collector, announced on Thursday’s opening night, on the heels of the VIP preview of the paintings, photographs and installations in the enormous, well-designed space. Before giving the stage over to Abloh, Dean urged the crowd to take time to look at the artworks positioned near the entrance. “They don’t want to let us in their events and art shows? We create our own art show!” he said to shouts of approval. “We let the artists keep 100 percent of proceeds from this show and you didn’t pay an entrance fee.”
Dean, who made his first major art purchase—an Ansel Adams photograph—when he was 18 and is on the board of the Brooklyn Museum, has been steadily building the Dean Collection, which includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kehinde Wiley and KAWS. The idea behind No Commission was to create an event that got people off of their phones and access to art at many price points. “I want people to feel something tangible, have an experience rather than me just dropping the digital platform,” Dean told me just as former NBA all-star Amar’e Stoudemire came by for a tour. “I noticed that to go to many of these galleries, you need a pocketbook with some serious coins and what that does is eliminates the next generation from being part of that conversation.”
Dean has been building his collection for his five kids; he now collects only living artists that he and his family get to know. He had just bought one of Nick Cave’s “Soundsuits,” (metaphorical suits of armor that originated in the Rodney King beatings), he said, and made several “big acquisitions recently that you’ll be hearing about.” And then there’s the ambitious museum he’s building that will be open to the public and include residences for young artists. “I’m looking at about four places,” he said of its location, mentioning his native Bronx, New York as a contender. “I’ll probably have a main headquarters and satellite spaces in different places.” He name checked Nina Chanel Abney and Toyin Ojih Odutola, two rising women artists he collects whose work was shown in the 2016 No Commission fair in the Bronx. (Abney’s work is currently on view at the Jack Shainman and Mary Boone galleries; Odutola has a solo show at the Whitney Museum through February 25, 2018.) “I’m building the museum for people who feel the art world is not open to them. It’s not even all the way open for me; you’d be surprised at how hard it is for me to buy art sometimes. There are a lot of rules. So I want people to go on a journey with me. I want them to feel a part of the Dean Collection, to see a piece and say, ‘I remember when I went to the No Commission fair and saw this artist. ‘Wow.’”