Derrick Adams. Woman in Grayscale (Alicia) [left] and Man in Grayscale (Swizz) [right], 2017. The Dean Collection, courtesy of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys. © 2023 Derrick Adams Studio. (Photo: Glenn Steigelman)
Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys
Brooklyn Museum
February 10 to July 7, 2024

In an unparalleled union of art and music, the exhibition “Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys” ushers in a new era of appreciation for Black diasporic artists. Opening at the Brooklyn Museum from February 10 to July 7, 2024, this groundbreaking showcase marks the first major exhibition of the world-class collection of dispersed Black artists, meticulously curated by the acclaimed musical duo Swizz Beatz (Kasseem Dean) and Alicia Keys. The exhibition features over 100 major artworks by important Black American, African, and African diasporic artists including Gordon Parks, Kehinde Wiley, Hassan Hajjaj, Barkley L. Hendricks, Lorna Simpson, and Amy Sherald.

The Dean Collection stands as a testament to the couple’s journey from their early days of collecting albums, musical equipment, and BMX bikes, to their evolved philosophy of “Black artists supporting Black artists”. The exhibition features nearly forty prominent artists, including Gordon Parks, Jean-Michael Basquiat, Lorna Simpson, Kehinde Wiley, and Nina Chanel Abney, offering an intimate glimpse into the Dean’s expansive collecting history.

Amy Sherald (born Columbus, Georgia, 1973). Deliverance, 2022. Oil on linen, each 108 1/4 × 124 1/4 in. (274.8 × 315.5 cm). The Dean Collection, courtesy of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys. © Amy Sherald. Courtesy of Amy Sherald and Hauser & Wirth. (Photo: Joseph Hyde)

The exhibition opens with a tribute to the creative lives of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys and their sources of inspiration. Both native New Yorkers, they have been influential figures in music for decades, nurturing diverse passions across the artistic spectrum. Their shared commitment to supporting living artists, especially those of color, is at the heart of the Dean Collection, as highlighted in a 2018 interview with Cultured magazine by Beatz. 

Ebony G. Patterson (born Kingston, Jamaica, 1981). . . . they were just hanging out . . . you know . . . talking about . . . ( . . . when they grow up . . .), 2016. Beads, appliqués, fabric, glitter, buttons, costume jewelry, trimming, rhinestones, glue on digital print on hand-cut matte photo paper, 90 × 224 in. (228.6 × 569 cm). The Dean Collection, courtesy of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys. © Ebony G. Patterson. Courtesy of the artist, Monique Meloche Gallery, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. (Photo: Adam Reich)

“Giants” not only celebrates the artists’ renown but also their immense impact on the art world. The exhibition explores the profound connections between the Deans and artists they support. The “On the Shoulders of Giants” section pays homage to legendary artists like Esther Mahlangu, Kwame Brathwaite, Malick Sidibé, and Gordon Parks, whose works have left an indelible mark on global art.

The “Giant Conversations” section delves into how artists critique and comment on societal issues. Lorna Simpson’s “Tense” (1991) and Nick Cave’s textured sculptures are just a few examples of works addressing critical themes relevant to Black communities. Jerome Lagarrigue and Henry Taylor’s pieces, for instance, focus on protest and visibility issues. In “Giant Presence,” the Museum’s Great Hall atrium will display monumental artworks as an impressive finale. Notable pieces include Nina Chanel Abney’s “Catfish” (2017) and Arthur Jafa’s “Big Wheel I” (2018), which combine vivid imagery with profound themes of joy and trauma in Black American life.

“Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys” is not merely an exhibition; it’s a vibrant celebration of Black artistry, a dialogue between generations, and a reflection of the enduring spirit of the Black community. A promised gift of significant works from the Dean Collection will enter the Museum’s permanent collection in celebration of the exhibition. 

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