Sotheby’s Taps Star Hip-Hop Producer Swizz Beatz to Organize an Upcoming Contemporary Auction

The hit-maker selected a rich and varied group of works.

Swizz Beatz. Photo: courtesy of Sotheby's.
Swizz Beatz. Photo: courtesy of Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s has tapped Grammy Award-winning hip-hop producer Kasseem Dean, aka Swizz Beatz, to organize the house’s upcoming Contemporary Curated auction on September 25.

The hit-maker and avid art collector selected 16 favorite works from over 340 lots on offer, choosing pieces by Wolfgang Tillmans, Kehinde Wiley, Richard Serra, Faith Ringgold, and Kerry James Marshall.

Kerry James Marshall Study For Past Times (1997). Photo: courtesy of Sotheby’s.

In an email to artnet News, the guest curator explained how he went about choosing works for the auction. “I love to look at art, ride the feeling, then submit to it,” he said. “The pieces that spoke to me are really varied, which is important. I think about overall quality, how a single piece stands against a larger body of work, my instincts, and, naturally, the estimated value relative to the market.” The producer added that he also looked for “naturally occurring things like nuance, power, harmony, persistence, narrative, and meaning, plus the more deliberate aspects like color, composition and form.” 

According to Dean, his relationship with Sotheby’s began last May when he bought a Lynette Yiadom Boakye painting to benefit the Studio Museum. “The synergy of the museum’s mission and how Sotheby’s managed it felt really powerful,” he explained. “It was a signal to me that hey, here’s a conduit that understands how the message needs to flow and be honored. I wanted to support that.”

Kehinde Wiley Passing/Posing Annunciation (2005). Photo: courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The producer is also credited with advising friend and collaborator Sean “Diddy” Combs to bid on Marshall’s monumental painting Past Times, which Combs ended up buying for $21.2 million, setting a world auction record for the artist, and making it the most expensive artwork by a living African American artist. So, it was no surprise that Dean picked Study for Past Times—a preparatory sketch for the larger original—as his headlining piece.

Not that the producer is playing favorites. “I love them all,” he insisted, “especially the Sam Gilliams and Kehinde Wileys. The Faith Ringgold and Lorna Simpson pieces are incredible, and that early, little Mark Rothkowitz nude is sensational.”

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