By Kelli Kennedy
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MIAMI _ Powerhouse producer Swizz Beatz definitely used his art prowess to help wife Alicia Keys fall in love with him. Now he’s bringing that same discerning eye to the public with a carefully curated collection showing at Art Basel Miami Beach.
“(Art is) some of the real strong foundation of our relationship,” Keys said Thursday night in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. “At the beginning, he decided to teach me about people that I had no idea about. … The first artist he taught me about was Erte … and he was like, ‘You don’t know who Erte is,”’ she said with mock condescension. “He gets a real kick, I think, out of introducing people to artists that he knows they’ll love.”
Beatz, whose real name is Kasseem Dean, said he used to choose art based on status, but eventually found greater pleasure discovering up-and-comers, “artists that I can speak to, that we can have dinner with at our home, artists that our children can meet.”
“He has such a passion for art and has even given me a passion for art,” said Keys, who cuddled close beside her man during the interview.
The couple feels so strongly about giving struggling artists _ from musicians to painters _ a platform that they decided to let the artists keep 100 per cent of their commissions from the show.
The well-known DJ hand-picked each piece of art at The Dean Collection X Bacardi No Commission Art Fair. The liquor company, a longtime supporter of the arts, is also sponsoring a VIP-only three night-concert series alongside the exhibit.
Keys headlined Thursday night’s show, taking the stage shortly after midnight in a black bustier, ripped jeans and sunglasses that she eventually ditched mid-performance because the steamy Miami weather kept fogging them up.
Model Hannah Bronfman was the DJ for the event. Rocker Lenny Kravitz checked out the exhibit and rapper A$AP Rocky was among the celebrity guests at the show, one of many star studded events during Art Basel. The prestigious art fair officially opened Thursday.
Pusha T, DMX and Wiz Khalifa are scheduled to perform at Beatz’ exhibit Friday and Saturday.
“As artists we understand the plight of an artist, what it is to get your creativity out there, what it is to be heard and what it is to be taken advantage of and what it is to be appreciated,” said Keys, who rocked leggings and cherry red platform heels.
The Bacardi partnership also allowed Beatz to work outside the constraints of most galleries. Artists were free to choose whatever pieces they wanted to display and how much they wanted to charge, but he warned them to use that power wisely.
“If you’re getting 100 per cent of your commission, let’s not use that power to overcharge the people because that goes against the message as well. This is the only collection that’s by the artist for the artist,” he said.
The Dean Collection, which includes everything from fledgling artists to established names like Dustin Yellin, Kehinde Wiley and KAWS, became such a buzzword in the couple’s home that their son even tried to get in on the action.
“Egypt will draw a picture and say this is for the Dean Collection,” said Keys, who has two children with Beatz.
It didn’t make this collection, but is proudly hanging on their refrigerator at home.
Beatz, who has produced songs for Jay-Z and Beyonce, said he is most excited about his recent collaboration with Keys on her new album.
“I feel like it’s the best music we’ve both ever done. Honestly, we’ve been free enough to tap into really bringing together some of the greatest musicians and some of the greatest creative people,” said Keys.
She was vague about a release date, but promised fans it was coming “Very soon. Be mysteriously surprised. Very soon.”
She credited her husband, who doted on her throughout the interview, with taking a risk and working with musicians she wouldn’t normally reach out to.
“It leads to this incredible energy and incredible inspiration that brings from it what you could have never imagined,” she said.
Asked if fans can expect to see more of the singer on FOX’s hit show “Empire,” the singer said she’d love to return to the set.
“I enjoyed becoming Sky Summers. I enjoyed turning my hair purple. I enjoyed really becoming this other woman. … I’d really actually love to (act) even more if I could. But it’s very time consuming and I love my music so much.”
This story has been corrected to reflect that the name of the exhibit is The Dean Collection X Bacardi No Commission Art Fair.