The South Bronx is set to welcome a new gallery venue this summer, The Compound, which was founded by entrepreneur and former emcee, Set Free Richardson. The project is supported by Richardson’s colleague Yasiin Bey, the legendary rapper and activist more commonly known by his stage name, Mos Def. The pair is opening the Bronx gallery to highlight the fusion of visual art and hip-hop, hoping to usher in underrepresented artists from marginalized backgrounds and under-appreciated mediums, like graffiti.
The Compound gallery space intends to open its doors in late August, Richardson told Hyperallergic, with a series of Compound Conversations, a partnership with Brooklyn-based advertising agency HUGE. The inaugural exhibition will feature work of the legendary hip-hop photographer Jonathan Mannion, who has captured some of the genre’s most iconic editorial portraits of musicians like Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls, 50 Cent, and Aaliyah, and is the eye behind over 100 of the genre’s most recognizable album covers.
With blue-chip galleries often relegated to sections of the city with minimal economic and racial diversity, The Compound’s South Bronx front immediately sets it apart.
“There was no question on the location of The Compound Gallery in NYC,” says Richardson, citing the Bronx as the birthplace of hip-hop, an integral facet of the gallery’s identity. He says The Compound fully intends to incorporate the surrounding community into its operations.
“We must and have to showcase the legacy of the Bronx, from art to music,” he adds. “We are currently in the stages of planning activations we want to execute to focus on the rich history of these art forms in the Bronx.”
Richardson founded The Compound in 2008 as a creative marketing agency and space for artistic production across genres. The location hosted a recording studio utilized by hip-hop industry heavy hitters like Swizz Beats and Alicia Keys, Jadakiss, and of course, Mos Def. The enterprise existed as a site for artistic cross-production, where musicians, graphic designers, photographers, and other artists could work and collaborate in a creative environment — decked out with Star Wars paraphernalia and vinyl KAWS figurines. An art collector himself, Richardson began working on expanding the company into a gallery to celebrate the synthesis of art and music.
“Once the developmental stages of building The Compound Gallery started, Yasiin expressed interest on being a partner. I could not have asked for a better person to partner up with,” he explains. Bey has been involved in The Compound since its inception as a creative agency almost a decade ago.