Kasseem Dean, perhaps better known as Swizz Beatz, has been a proponent of the arts for years. He, along with his wife, Alicia Keys, are passionate patrons who have quietly built a stable of works that is profoundly more than the sum of its parts–through what’s become known as The Dean Collection, Dean and Keys are working toward a more equitable future for the art world by acquiring and advocating for pieces by artists who might otherwise remain in the shadows of obscurity. In supporting “young artists of color,” as Keys explained to ARTnews, the duo rejects the system’s historic pattern of ignoring these artists, giving them the recognition they deserve.
Needless to say, it came as no surprise when the nature of Dean’s next phase of an ongoing partnership with American Express and Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott’s robust travel rewards program, was revealed. Women in Art is a series that aims to shed light on female artists in the face of a staggering global spending disparity–a recent study found that just 2% of auction around the world is on work by women–and together, since the debut of the initiative’s first installation in June 2019 (DELUXX FLUXX by FAILE), these joined forces will change the landscape for the better.
The following November saw Women in Art’s next move in the form of an event held inside the New York EDITION, wherein Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels, a director at Jack Shainman Gallery in Manhattan and a trailblazing advocate for women in the industry, was both recognized by Dean and the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card portfolio and invited to collaborate with the Women in Art initiative. In this partnership, Bellorado-Samuels set out to creatively inspire female art professionals at all levels through a travel lens, part of which involved spotlighting artists February James and LaKela Brown, who were both commissioned to create work for this project. These works were unveiled to Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card Members at a Miami Art Week event in December.
“The most important thing anyone can do for an artist is give them space, support and resources. I was thrilled to be a part of that,” Bellorado-Samuels shared with me on a trip to New Orleans, a place that has served as a major source of inspiration for her. We chatted over dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, where the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card experience comes to life within its walls adorned in $1.5 million of art, the property in the throes of a $40 million renovation. Here, card members reap a long list of benefits, including generous statement credits for purchases on the card both on-property and around town (card members can also be reimbursed for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fees, among many other perks). As part of her programming with Women in Art, Bellorado-Samuels curated this trip itinerary for a handful of press.
On working with Dean, Marriott Bonvoy, and American Express to leave a lasting impact on the art world through this work, Bellorado-Samuels leaves me with an anecdote: “Both Swizz and Alicia have a real, true commitment to supporting artists. The Dean Collection has become not only a world-class art collection, but also a vehicle to support and give exposure to young artists and to inspire a new generation of collectors who are widening and diversifying the landscape–it is so important that women are recognized for their contributions and are given the platform to share their work with the broadest audience possible. This is what I see being achieved through collaborations such as [this].”
Dean himself chimes in, granting a look behind the scenes in a full exclusive interview with DuJour. Here’s what he had to say.
Tell us about your personal passion for the arts and how you’ve brought that to this collaboration with American Express and Marriott Bonvoy.
I have an ongoing relationship with Marriott Bonvoy and American Express and have previously teamed up with them on some amazing experiences. Our focus now ties back to my mission of The Dean Collection—an art collection and cultural platform my wife and I founded in order to support living artists. Last month, with Marriott and American Express, we announced our support for women creatives through the “Women in Art” platform and formally recognized Joeonna for her contributions to the art world.
This ongoing art series is exclusive to card members–can you share what makes these specific installations so special?
What makes these projects so special is that we have artists go big without limits. We invited FAILE and BAST to fully take over a space in Chelsea and they created DELUXX FLUXX, which completely pushed the limits of an art installation. It was an experience where Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card Members literally got to play with the art by way of arcade games that the collective created. THE DREAM PARTY in Miami was also an experience that allowed guests to engage in an unlikely way with new work by February James and Lakela Brown.
It is, without question, important to support female/female-identifying talent in any arena, but can you tell us a bit about why that’s been important to you throughout this project? Was it something that drew you to the project initially or did that become a primary facet after you came on board?
I have teamed up with Marriott Bonvoy and American Express in the past but together we wanted to do more. We found that only 2% of global art auction spending is on work by women and saw our collaboration as a great opportunity to amplify underrepresented voices in the art community.
This project (and your involvement in it) was first announced at a dinner in New York, which was followed by Card Member party at Miami Art Week. Can you give us a first-person account of both of those experiences and what they entailed from your perspective?
Both in New York and Miami, the experiences celebrated these women at their core. From recognizing Joeonna with my long-term partners to unveiling the amazing travel-inspired artwork from February and LaKela…it was a true testament to their talent.
What has the process been like to work with Bellorado-Samuels on all of this? How does her style translate to the project?
Joeonna is super dedicated to what she does. I’ve always known her to put the interests of the artists first. As creatives, it is so important to have someone in your corner that you can trust to do the right thing on your behalf–Joeonna is that person.
What is your grand vision for the future of the art world?
My goal is to make changing this disparity a lifestyle choice. I want to make fairness and equality cool.
What does the future hold for this important program within that?
I am looking forward to continuing my work with Marriott and American Express and continuing to support women creatives. Bigger things are coming in 2020.