Basquiat’s first exhibition for 20 years currently graces the halls of the Barbican Gallery, London. Representing a partial reconstruction of former work – from the 1981 Diego Cortez New York/New Wave exhibition, PS1 – an exploration of graffiti and Basquiat’s own wit via his alias ‘SAMO’*, along with an homage to the artist’s creative relationship with iconic pop-artist, Andy Warhol. Downstairs, new scholarship sheds light on some of his most acclaimed paintings and drawings. Sourced from international museums and private collections, Basquiat: Boom for Real brings together a rare selection of over 100 works, many of which have never been viewed before in the UK.
One of the most significant painters of the 20th century, Basquiat came of age in the late 1970s in the post-punk underground art scene in downtown New York. Soon he was making drawings in his own blood, collaging baseball cards and postcards and painting on clothing, architectural fragments and improvised canvases. By 1982, he was the youngest ever artist to participate in Documenta 7, Kassel. He collaborated with other artists, most famously with Andy Warhol, created murals and installations for notorious New York nightclubs including the Mudd Club, Area and Palladium, and in 1983 produced ‘Beat Bop’, a classic hip hop record with K-Rob and Rammellzee. Since his tragic death in 1988, the artist has had remarkably little exposure in the UK – not a single work of his is held in a public collection.
More than any other exhibition to date, Basquiat: Boom for Real showcases the artist’s relationship to music, writing, performance, film and television, placing him within the wider contextual zeitgeist of the time. Paintings, drawings, notebooks and objects are presented alongside rare film footage, photography, music and archives, capturing the range and dynamism of Basquiat’s practice over the years.
Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts at the Barbican , said ‘We are truly thrilled to be staging the first show on Basquiat in the UK in over 20 years. The creative brilliance and emotive power of Basquiat continues to have a huge impact and influence. This is a rare opportunity for visitors to see a body of some of his most famous and also little known works in one place, and to see those works in the context of the New York scene of the 1980s.’.
Basquiat: Boom for Real is co-curated by Dr Dieter Buchhart and Eleanor Nairne (Curator, Barbican Art Gallery), and organised in collaboration with the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt.
*Jean-Michel Basquiat’s graffiti moniker ‘SAMO’ is copyrighted. It is based on the phrase ‘same old shit’.
[Credits: Feature photo – Basquiat: Boom For Real, Installation View, Barbican Art Gallery, 21st September 2017 – 28th January 2018, Tristan Fewings/Getty Images, Artwork – Jean-Michel Basquiat King Zulu, 1986, Courtesy Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York; barbican.org.uk]