Bronx-born Swizz Beatz is hosting a four-day art fair that’s already giving people flashbacks to last October’s “Macabre Suite” – a “Bronx is Burning”-themed party thrown by real estate developers Somerset Partners and Chetrit Group. Swizz’s No Commission Art Fair likely (hopefully) won’t use bullet-riddled cars as decoration. Yet, it won’t stop people from thinking that it’s another attempt to erase the South Bronx’s identity. That it’s another way to appeal to developers and continue making way for gentrification.
For starters, the first No Commission Art event took place during Miami’s Art Basel in the heavily gentrified neighborhood of Wynwood. It raised $1 million for artists. The Bronx event, which takes place between August 11-14, similarly doesn’t cater to the people who make up this community. Instead, residents feel insulted. The flier states, “Swizz Beatz and Bacardí present the No Commission Art Fair, bringing contemporary art and music back to the Bronx.” This insinuates the Bronx isn’t making art, which is maybe why organizers only tapped one artist from the borough.
ArtNet said the Bronx art fair “will show the world where hip hop started.” But this is difficult to do when the Bronx has little to do with it.
As Welcome 2 the Bronx points out, out of the 36 artists invited, about a third have insubstantial connections to the neighborhood. With a lack of Latinos on the roster, the fair also doesn’t reflect the neighborhood’s demographics.
But just as the South Bronx has stood up to those trying to rebrand their borough as the Piano District, people are once again stepping up to denounce this fair. On August 12, a collective of artists will protest at the Wall Works Gallery. Holding painting, instruments, scripts, and more, they aim to send one message: Respect the Bronx.
Update, August 8 at 3:15 p.m.: Swizz Beatz spent two hours talking to Ed García Conde, the man behind the Welcome 2 the Bronx blog.