In the art world, it is rare to receive an invitation to an event that is potentially so transformative to your career that you contemplate leaving Miami Art Week (Art Basel), mid-week, to attend. Ferrari Sheppard and Swizz Beatz hosted an event to unveil their collaboration with art and music brand in Los Angeles, on the date that Art Basel hosted its coveted VIP Preview in Miami.

As I clicked through Instagram the following day, I saw pictures of music executive Jimmy Iovine, rapper Nas, Swizz Beatz and Sheppard. The four were all beaming like old friends, sitting on a sofa in the midst of the pairs’ event; which was a launch for Beatz’s new limited edition jazz record, at Bang & Olufsen in West Hollywood.

Many are unaware of Sheppard’s past as a musician, collaborating on the album “December 99th,” (2016) with legendary emcee Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def ). When asked about his history in the music business, Sheppard quickly responded, “I told him [Bey] years ago, ‘I think this might be my first and my last album.’” Fortunately for us, this is not the case.

Sheppard collaborated with Beatz, hand-finishing 30 vinyl albums for the project. Beatz curated the record; venturing beyond his traditional role as a hip-hop producer, but incorporating his love for art collecting in his latest project.

Many hold Beatz in high regard for his contemporary art collection; most notably, being the single largest collector of Gordon Parks photography in the world. Beatz and his wife, singer Alicia Keys, have had their personal collection featured in Architectural Digest (2021) with images of works from artists Derrick Adams, Jordan Casteel, and Nick Cave.

Referring to the collaborative album with Beatz, Sheppard elaborated, “It’s something that I always wanted to do and now it’s in my canon.”

When I last connected with Sheppard in summer 2021, he was working with the Mariane Ibrahim Gallery (Chicago/Paris); Kelly Rowland, of Destiny’s Child, was courting his practice; and I could not get work, to save my life, to appease the volume of inquiries from Los Angeles emerging art collectors. Now, Sheppard has new representation in MASSIMO DE CARLO Gallery (since March 2022) and his year has culminated in a solo show with the gallery.

When asked about the new representation, Sheppard acknowledged, “I liked their program and I understand they’re one of the most prestigious [galleries] in Europe.”

Sheppard’s trajectory is unique in a way. He did not have exclusive representation over the last several years, despite working with many established galleries — this is a rare business practice in the art world. Sheppard expanded on this thought by reestablishing that he is still not exclusively represented by anybody.

“The common view that I hear from artists is, ‘Yo, you’re independent, bro,’” he said. It remains to be seen how long this will last, but it makes for an incredible case study.

What to expect from Sheppard in the future? Sheppard has hinted at pursuing a new medium — “I’m thinking of doing some pottery or maybe some sculptures.”

Whatever he decides to do, the excitement is mutual because, as Sheppard so eloquently put it, “I want to have a diverse output that has my DNA and touch in it.”

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