The seas are parting for Chance the Rapper. Last month, CULTURED’s Winter 2022 issue cover star announced his upcoming Black Star Line Festival, which will take place on Jan 6, 2023 in Ghana. Acts are clamoring to join the lineup, which includes the likes of Erykah Badu, T-Pain, Sarkodie, and Tobe Nwigwe. United Airlines is selling discounted fares to Accra, the Ghanaian capital. Critics are celebrating Star Line Gallery, a collection of four works debuted over the course of the year at hallowed institutions like the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. The project features cross-disciplinary collaborations with painters, multimedia artists, musicians, and producers hailing from across the African continent and the Black diaspora.
Yesterday during Art Basel Miami Beach, the Chicago-born artist’s boundary-breaking festival-turned-movement touched down for a panel followed by a lively lunch hosted by CULTURED at Soho Beach House. As guests cozied up under a beachside linen tent to escape the rain, CULTURED’s editor-in-chief Sarah Harrelson welcomed Chance to the stage alongside two of his Star Line Gallery collaborators—the Gabonese photographer Yannis Davy Guibinga, who lent his eye to the project’s third work, “The Highs & Lows,” which premiered this summer at Art Basel in Switzerland; and the Chicago-based visual artist Mía Lee, who worked alongside the rapper on the project’s fourth work, “YAH Know (Feat. King Promise),” an installation celebrating the heritage of storytelling in Black families. When Harrelson pressed Chance on his criteria for collaborating with other artists, the rapper said, “It’s really a question of whether we vibe, and whether we’re both willing to be our own promoters and gallerists. I couldn’t have made these pieces without them.” For Lee, the project proved transformative: “This collaboration is the most significant of my life—” she said, interrupted by audience applause. “—I mean, we were in the MOCA! Chance was on the roof!”
While guests sipped signature cocktails courtesy of Bombay Sapphire, Chance reflected on the intention behind Star Line Gallery: “It’s about realistic depictions of Black life—in an easy, non-traumatic way,” he says. “Black people’s stories are so important but so rare. Our grandparents and parents never told us things because they were trying to protect us.” It’s these gaps in the narrative of Black history—and the notable omission of these histories from traditional art spaces—that the artist and his collaborators are dedicated to addressing. Lee, who worked with Chance on a six-foot painting that evokes the urgency of these efforts, noted the importance of bringing this mission outside of the art world and into daily life. “Call your mama, call your grandma,” she told listeners, an appeal that Chance echoed: “It’s about speaking to your people while they're still here.” At its core, the project and forthcoming festival represent Chance’s commitment—to moving against the market and challenging established limitations around album art—which, as hold Theaster Gates for CULTURED’s Winter Issue, marks a new community-focused era in his career. “The point,” he says of his recent anti-market choices, “Is to let the work breathe. Let it stand for itself.”