This weekend the best of art and music came to the cultural capital of Europe under the banner of supporting artists and celebrating multicultural diversity. For the premier of its London edition, the instantly successful Bacardí and The Dean Collection present No Commission art fair opened to a fashion- forward, convivial crowd of millennial art lovers in The Arches off the River Thames.
“The venue is an expression of grit its raw elements, then the artists’ works are brought in and they enliven the space…make it feel like a subterranean wonderland full of color, vibrancy, and storytelling.”
The venue saw a three-night marathon of storytelling come to life with 22 exhibited artists, a polychromatic lightshow, and buoyant dance rhythms. Most importantly, it was home to the first episode of its kind in Europe, a “no commission” art fair that forges a direct link between artists’ practices and art patronage; a unique cultural experience with true cause for celebration.
This was the third No Commission fair since opening in Miami and the Bronx last year. The arts collective, hosted by music producer Swizz Beatz, the Dean Collection, and Bacardi, curates not only the art on display but the entertainment to go in tandem. Behind the music, the top-names, the dancing, however, is the meaningful gravitas of it all: to support both new and established artists, show their passion to the world, and make a fair profit.
As Beatz puts succinctly, “When you free the artists, you free the world. A lot of artists are not free.” So he affords them with freedom, with exceptional opportunity, and they are free to curate their space on their own terms: “I can’t tell the artists what to put in the show. They’re in charge of their installations, they’re in charge of the works that they put, they’re in charge of their price points.”
Explaining how the concept came about, Beatz said he was inspired to create a platform that was “100 per cent for the artist,” and that “at the time I didn’t see anything out there like it.” Himself a passionate artist and collector, he began collecting “blue-chip” artists such as Marc Chagall, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, before dedicating himself to supporting living artists.
Since then this has been his full-fledged passion, and so grounded in No Commission. The “locking away [of] so much great talent because of politics and business” compelled Beatz to change the system and offer artists a free exhibition space. That way they could sell artwork in an empowered way, receiving the full value of their sales. A$AP Rocky, who collaborated with Beatz for the fair’s inauguration in the Bronx, agreed that for No Commission to be the first of its kind a “concept crazy in itself,” and all the more reason to come together with support and enthusiasm.
It seems that London agreed. Masses of people showed up each night, a testimony to the rallying cause of “art for art’s sake.” And for a party organized by people outside the UK, the event was a telling example of how today’s youth – creative, multicultural, and internationally connected – can come together to “make history,” in the words of Beatz. The event was the product of modern-day marketing in the art world: a deluge of online press releases and geotags shared to millions of followers and rousing a mobilization en mass for initiatives of unity and collaboration. This energy was at the heart of the London chapter. As Beatz explained:
“Our theme for No Commission: London is ‘Juxtaposition’ and celebrates the journey from street art to fine art. Visitors will experience art and music, street art and fine art, street culture and high culture, a bit of grit, a bit of glamour,” said Swizz Beatz. “It’s great to be in the UK. London in particular has a strong connection with graffiti and contemporary art. But it doesn’t stop here. We want to take No Commission around the world!”
It seems that Beatz has set his sights on world domination, and London isn’t mad about it. The weekend saw “art and music collide” in what was only Europe’s first taste of the experiential platform. Performances included Emeli Sandé, Blood Orange, UK-based Grime princess Lady Leshurr and Bugzy Malone alongside works by artists such as D Face, Matthew Stone, and Hassan Hajjaj. And visitors to the three-day event enjoyed it all for free.
No Commision remains beholden to its titular definition – “By the artists. For the artists. For the people.” – and with each artwork on display as diverse and exciting as the next, the onslaught of talent can be dizzying. Swizz Beatz recognizes this, for when asked to name a favority, he refused to single anyone out and instead celebrated the unity within the concept. “Every artist is very important, I’m a fan of them all… All the artists in the show collectively bring on that idea that because we’re all an art community, then we should move as one, and celebrate as one.”
The location of the next chapter has yet to be announced, however we are sure to be following No Commission someway or another, whether that be with Swizz Beatz et. al, or the myriad offshoots that we hope to see follow suit and materialize in the coming years. With a call for international collectivity, art and music synthesis, and fair pay for all, the artists of today have reason to look with gusto to the horizon of tomorrow.
All photos courtesy by D.I.C.l.Y.L.I