The producer, rapper, and art collector Swizz Beatz is giving out $100,000 in art grants. The new initiative, under the auspices of the Dean Collection — the contemporary art collection he and his wife Alicia Keys created — received thousands of submissions from artists across the world, and Swizz (real name Kasseem Dean) worked with a curatorial team of more than a dozen people to pick 20 artists, each of whom will receive $5,000.
“The curation is very important to me. It’s just like in music; everybody can’t make a hit record, but artists have talent and they should have that outlet to get to where they need to go to,” Dean told Hyperallergic over the phone. “I just love to do these things, and my wife does as well. This is what we’re supposed to do. This is what everybody’s supposed to be doing; creating opportunities for other people to have opportunities. We’re all supposed to be playing that part.”
The winners of the Dean Collection 20 St(art)ups grants include artists from Africa, Asia, North and South America, Europe, and Australia. The full list of winners, shared exclusively with Hyperallergic and shown in the image below, is: Fadi Alhamwi, Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, Jorge Calderón, Razahk Issaka, Ton Vajanpanich, Erwin “Skip” Brea, Hana El-Sagini, Tanda Francis, Rimon Guimarães, Penda Diakité, Fletcher Williams, Shanina Dionna, Kimani Beckford, Sara Rahbar, Pierre-Christophe Gam, Danielle Roberts, Emma Lindsay, Ekene Emeka-Maduka, Rada Iya, and Shawn Warren.
“Very important part: 10 men, 10 women,” Dean said of the winners. “I’m just tired of hearing, in every field, ‘Where the women at?’ You get an opportunity to change that for once, it was on my radar. And my wife is who she is; she wouldn’t let me forget that, even though she didn’t have to remind me. It’s very important to her; there need to be more women in the art industry, like the music industry, at every level.”
The $5,000 grants are unrestricted, but there’s incentive for the winners to do something ambitious with their money: four of them will receive an additional $25,000 based on what they do with the grant money.
“The people that really really took it serious and went to the next level, I think that they should go to the next level,” Dean said. “When you use all your resources, all your connections to make this happen in a positive way, you sell your show — even if you don’t sell anything at your show, that doesn’t mean that you failed. Your price point might have been off or it might be small things, but that doesn’t take you out of the running of doing something amazing; you might just be one step away from it, and we want to give you the boost to go even further. Like, ‘wow, you did that with $5,000? Imagine what you’re going to do with $25,000’.”
The 20 grant recipients work in just about every medium and style, from large-scale figurative sculpture and colorful portrait paintings to design, collage, and installation. They range from artists who have shown at major galleries and art fairs, like the Tehran-born, New York-based artist Sara Rahbar, to artists who have achieved success in their local communities but have rarely shown their work internationally, like the Jamaican painter Kimani Beckford. For Dean, though, the grants are intended not just to reward and support artists’ work, but also to sharpen and nurture their business savvy. He sees the grants, in part, as correctives to an art industry that fails to empower artists to think about their careers in terms of financial stability — an issue highlighted by a study released earlier this week.
“The key to this whole thing is sustainability,” Dean said. “How can artists maintain after a show? How can we educate the artists to start to do things on their own instead of just going with the regular standard? Do you know how to put on your art show? Do you have a business plan? A lot of these artists are only equipped to do art, and I think that that’s the biggest mistake, in all art forms. That’s why artists are always getting taken advantage of, because we don’t know the business.”
Artists who’ve missed out on applying for the grant this time around needn’t despair: Dean has ambitious plans not only to give these St(art)up grants regularly, but to give them to 20 more artists each time. Submissions for the next round, with 40 grants available, will open soon.
“This is the Dean Collection 20 St(art)ups, next one will be 40, then 60, and so on,” Dean said. “I want to get it to 200; I want to do 200 consecutive shows around the world; that’s my goal. That’s when you’re doing something very powerful.”