Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz's Art Collection Goes on Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum

The couple’s monumental collection spotlights Black creatives from across the globe.

"Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum
"Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum | Photo by Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for Thrillist
"Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys" exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum | Photo by Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for Thrillist

The Brooklyn Museum’s newest exhibition is a celebration of Blackness and an ode to living life monumentally. Directly sourced from the personal collection of New York natives, illustrious artists, and married couple Alicia Keys and Kasseem Dean (aka Swizz Beatz), Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys is an exceptional showcase of artwork by Black American, African, and African diasporic artists.

With the help of 98 pieces of artwork by more than 40 creatives, the theme of giants is represented in multiple ways throughout the exhibition—the works on display are monumental in size and are the creations of big-name talents. Along with their physicality, they inspire larger and deeper conversation from visitors on topics like Black social justice and the history of Black artistry.

“For several of the works, they are the largest ever created by the artist,” says curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Brooklyn Museum, Kimberli Gant. “[This exhibit] was an opportunity for the artists themselves to just go beyond what they even thought possible. There’s that quote, ‘The sky is not the limit, it’s just a view.’ For the Deans, it’s a mantra of life.”

As artists themselves—Keys a 15-time Grammy Award-winner and Dean a celebrated producer, DJ, and rapper—the Deans believe art takes on a multitude of meanings and shapes. Throughout the galleries, in addition to sculptures, paintings, and photographs, there’s also BMX bikes and a piano. “[The Deans] have a strong belief that art is not purely just the visual,” explains Gant. “There’s incredible craftsmanship and artistry in the objects. Both in how they're made and how they’re used.”

Gant found it impossible to narrow down just a handful of her favorite pieces—but there are a few that “kind of slow me down.” These include, “three sitting vignettes. I designed them to really emphasize visitors taking a moment of rest and contemplation with the work. They’re Barkley Hendrix landscapes of Jamaica that are beautiful and intimate. And according to Barkley Hendrix’s widow, his favorite works he ever made.” In photography, Gant is partial to the Jamel Shabazz works. “They show such powerful ideas of local and national life that is both celebratory and joyous, but also personal. It’s easy to look at his photographs and see yourself or someone you know reflected in them,” she says.

"Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys" exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum
"Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys" exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum | Photo by Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for Thrillist

Other notable inclusions—that hopefully slow you down—include awe-inspiring shots by photographer Gordon Parks, famous canvases by portraitist Kehinde Wiley, a large-scale painting by artist Meleko Mokgosi (his largest yet), and geometric works by South-African painter Esther Mahlangu.

A stroll through the exhibition makes it clear that the Deans and the Brooklyn Museum share a love of art and a desire to champion Black artists. Gant hopes the show inspires visitors to think about the power of art across mediums, "Art isn’t just on the walls within the museum, but all around us.”

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Izzy Baskette is the New York City Staff Writer for Thrillist. Talk to her at izzy.baskette@voxmedia.com or find her on Instagram.