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Last month in the Bronx, we met with Kasseem Dean, better known as Swizz Beatz, to discuss a very important party that was set to open in just a few days—No Commission: Art Performs. When we approached the building to meet with the music producer, recording artist, and art collector, he extended his hand with a glass more than half full of Bacardi—his partner for the weekend. Only then were we ready to tour the venue, a retired old bus depot at 101 Lincoln Avenue, which was bustling with production crews tirelessly working to get everything ready. To the left, we saw men putting together picnic tables. To the right, a crew member was laying carpet in a small, stylish room.
As we walked through the space, Dean explained the intensity of what it took to completely renovate the building, including having the state of New York’s approval, re-wiring electricity and air conditioning, building walls, curtains, and video projection crannies, and making it all look polished before the grand opening celebration, which was right around the corner. “It’s a celebration for the artists,” said Dean. “No Commission is about letting the artists be free.”
Art aficionados may remember No Commission’s appearance in Miami last year during Art Basel, but would far from recognize this second installment’s multi-faceted fair that stunned the busy borough for four nights in a row. Residents of the Bronx were invited to attend this block party-like festivity, which included: an outdoor stage for performers like A$AP Rocky, Q-Tip, DJ Runna, and DJ Norie; outpost Bacardi bars spread throughout the venue, complemented with some of the brand’s archival advertisements put up in a wheat paste-secured street art fashion; a variety of food trucks; paintings, sculptures, and mixed media installations inside the venue; and a Ferris wheel in the parking lot overlooking the grounds—Dean’s special request.
“A lot of people can fund something, a lot of people can slap their name on something, but this is something that I really love. I started The Dean Collection to build a museum for my kids, and then with doing that, I started posting different artists’ work that I was collecting,” Dean said. “Those artists started hitting me back on Instagram and Twitter saying, ‘Man, I just sold out my show!’ and ‘I got 1,000 new followers just because of this!’ So I said, ‘Wait a minute, this is bigger than just my personal collection.'”
Similarly to the first installment last December, No Commission’s weekend purpose was to provide artists a platform to sell their art without a gallery, fair, or manager taking a commission. Handpicked artists in participation, like Swoon, Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams, Jeffrey Gibson, Todd James, and Pablo Power, were No Commission’s special guests, as in-between conversation, Dean was snapping pictures, texting and posting them on his social media channels on behalf of the artists—a passionate “manager” without the commission benefits to say the very least.
“I have nothing against any of the fairs because it’s still an outlet, but for me, I’m not a gallery, I’m not a dealer, I’m not a broker—I’m a lover of the arts, so why charge a commission to the artists when I don’t have those titles? All I’m doing is a celebration for the arts, and all of those fairs are doing is a celebration for the arts too, but they’re just different dynamics,” said Dean. “I built my motto differently. They built their motto off of, ‘We have to pay for this and that’ but I built mine off of one great partner, which is Bacardi. I’m now a partner of the company because of art and because of having a vision as well. I figure out a way to do something that can fund great things on a global scale.”