Last Thursday (Dec. 8) saw the launch of BACARDÍ x The Dean Collection No Commission in London, a one-of-a-kind art fair the rum brand and its Global Chief Creative for Culture, Swizz Beatz, have put together to showcase artists from across the spectrum of visual art. It's also a unique opportunity for those artists to sell their work and keep 100% of the money made. So far the show has landed in Miami and Swizz's hometown, the Bronx. Today it hits London and promises to feature work from artists from the U.S., Spain, Morocco, France and beyond. This isn't just a one-off; BACARDÍ have long been supportive of a range of art from live music to painting. This year alone has seen them team up with digital artist Kenzo Digital for a major installation Halloween weekend and Major Lazer for a block party in Jamaica.
As you might expect from that, the night's proceedings, which also saw performances from Emeli Sandé and Blood Orange, go beyond simply being an art fair. There's a chance for artists to put themselves out there in the international art world, to meet other artists and to support and engage with artists and art they may not otherwise be exposed to. This isn't just about selling art, it's about bringing together the worlds of art and music. It's also about the juxtaposition of street and fine art, putting them both on the same platform, and to break down any misconception that one is somehow better than the other.
One artist featured by No Commission is UK-based Spanish artist Ricardo Cavolo. You may not recognise his name, but you now his work, in particular the artwork he created for Kaytranada's debut album 99.9%. His style is often labeled as 'Naïf', a term originally applied to self-taught artist Henry Rousseau—whose work has earned the admiration of greats like Picasso and Matisse. The term has since come to describe anyone who hasn't received formal training, though often refers to the unusual and striking use of perspective to affect the piece's composition and depth. However, the term can have a slightly dismissive edge and, when talking to Cavolo, it became clear his art has long since broken out of those constraints. Though his work still plays around with depth and perspective, with each new work Cavolo's style incorporates more and more outside influence from illustration and street art to fashion design and fine art.
As Cavolo's work gains more and more exposure through high profile projects and celebrity fans, we spoke to him about his impressive achievements in the art world, his instantly recognisable style, and coming together with BACARDÍ and The Dean Collection for No Commission.
"The easy part of all of this is there wasn’t any other path for me, there was no choice"
If someone had never seen your work, how would you describe your style and what you do?
Well, I consider myself an artist. In the past I used the word “illustrator” but I think I’m working in more fields as well, murals, fashion, paintings. About my style… maybe the tag would be 'Naïf' art. But the subjects of my work are not naïf or casual at all. The stories of my work are complex and with deep and universal meanings. It is a mix between tribal art, medieval art and outsider art.
You work in a whole range of mediums and situations, from big murals to small works on paper in a gallery—how does this change your artistic approach?
First of all, I’d say I need that variety of mediums and situations. I need that tension of changing formats and techniques. But I don’t think it changes my approach to the different situations too much. I can develop the same message on each medium without changing the main message. It just changes the technique: bigger brushes, an elevator, a jacket… But at the end, I am able to spread the message of all those situations the same way.
It seems like you’re at a great point in your career—collaborating on great projects, exhibiting all over the world—when you started out, did you ever think you’d be in this position, and how has the journey been?
The journey has been great. I enjoy every minute. But I have also spent a lot of energy and time to get here. I’m an artist, so this is my life. The easy part of all of this is there wasn’t any other path for me, there was no choice, so I just had to work hard and enjoy it at the same time. I have to say I wanted to work hard since the beginning to become something like this. So yes, I used to dream about it, but I aim even higher. This is really fun and thrilling and it is just doing what I love the most, painting. The more things I get to do, the more fun and the more interesting it becomes.
How did you get involved with the No Commission project?
I haven’t asked Swizz yet but I think he found me on Instagram or he saw the artwork I did for the first Kaytranada album. The point is he found my work and we connected! The next step was that Swizz mentioned BACARDÍ No Commission in The Bronx and of course I said yes. Now it’s No Commission London and here we are again. This makes me so happy.
What’s Swizz like and how is it working with him?
He is an amazing person. His personality is like that good king from the fairy tales. He is such a good person, respectful and devoted to art and artists. I could feel that from the very first moment, he gives the artist all the freedom we need to create. And I feel the real respect he has for art. When you find someone like him, it’s like being touched by an angel!
How does No Commission differ from other projects you’ve been involved with?
Well, first of all, I love Swizz’ work as a curator. I love the selection of artists he finds. It is like many of the art fairs in the world but formed just by young artists. You can find so many underground artists, not famous, but with the energy of a volcano. And of course, the real “no commission” situation, where all the money is just for artists. Swizz and BACARDÍ have given artists a platform that is unlike any other out there!
Do you think this sort of model could grow beyond this project and become more common in the art world?
Honestly, I think this is the future for us. And I love it. Finally, the power is for the artists!
"Swizz's personality is like that good king from the fairy tales—He is such a good person, respectful and devoted to art and artists"
You mentioned the artwork you provided for Kaytranada's album. How did that come about and how was it?
Yeah, that has been a really good project. I like the final result and apparently the album is doing really well. Kaytraada knew my work because I’m very present in the artist scene of Montreal, so maybe he found my work over there. I assume he liked it enough for me to be the guy who will work the art for his first album!! The process was really easy. He gave a few points to talk about but the rest was total freedom for me. I think that’s the best way for me to do my best and I think all of us are happy with that art.
Are there any other artists you've worked with, or would particularly like to collaborate with?
The collaboration with Kaytranada has been one of the best things I’ve done. And I have to confess I dream about working with Kanye West or Pharrell. Those two guys are a sort of my gurus and it would be an honor to do something with them. Someday!
What other projects are you working on right now, and what are your plans/dreams for the future?
Right now I’m just finishing ny next two books. I’m also working on the launch of my clothing brand next year (one of my dreams, of course) and I’m working on my next exhibition, probably for next year in LA. In terms of the future, I’m going to just keep doing what I’m doing right now. I will climb so many mountains and touch the sun with my hands.
The Dean Collection X BACARDÍ present No Commission: London 8-10 December 2016 at The Arches in Southwark, London (Ewer Street entrance, SE1 0NR, off Union St.). Tickets are free but limited. Head to here for more info. Visitors must be 18 years of age or older.