It’s difficult not to mention Jean-Michel Basquiat when discussing the canon of artists who have influenced, not only American, but global culture. Basquiat will always be remembered as one of the greats for his neo-expressionist works that included sensitive reflections of injustice, classism, social justice, and the multidimensionality of the Black experience. Now, the family of Jean-Michel Basquiat is offering a closer look into the artist’s life with the new “Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure” exhibition, which continues the research and appreciation of the renowned artist.
What to expect
The new exhibition, which is on view in the Starrett-Lehigh Building in New York City, includes nearly 200 never-before-seen and rarely-seen Basquiat paintings, drawings, artifacts, and multimedia presentations. It includes recreations of his family’s home, his Great Jones Street studio, and the Michael Todd VIP area of NYC’s Palladium nightclub, in addition to artifacts from his family’s collection. It’s strength is its ability to take Basquiat’s work beyond the canvas. Basquiat was more than a famous artist; he was a curious youngster, brother, son, friend, and so much more.
Many of Basquiat’s works include investigations of music, pop culture, the Black experience, literature, police brutality, and Black American sports personalities. All of these topics are represented in various ways, including photographs, paintings, and relics from Basquiat’s youth. This encounter recounts a story from a personal point of view. Basquiat’s early childhood works, including some of his first paintings, museum cards, and other personal items from his life, are on display.
The show is organized chronologically so that visitors can focus on one aspect of Basquiat’s life at a time. The family posted a message for museum visitors at the entryway, explaining that allowing the public to see these concealed works was a tough decision. According to their statements at the show entry, Basquiat’s family ultimately thought that the pieces they chose needed to be viewed.
Numerous self-portraits are on display at the exhibition, depicting Basquiat as he viewed himself and as the rest of the world perceived him. All of the portraits are nameless, allowing for a variety of interpretations.
Basquiat’s family also curated spaces that were crucial to his upbringing. Two of the rooms are reconstructions of Basquiat’s childhood house in Northwest Brooklyn, while the other two are studio spaces where he previously worked in NoHo. It’s intriguing to piece together multiple versions of Basquiat’s tale now that spectators can see where he worked.
Basquiat’s work has left an indelible impression on millions of people, and it continues to do so today. The experience of engaging with such a well-known artist adds to the meaning and personalization of his work. This was something the family wanted to be a part of the experience.
According to the exhibit, many of Basquiat’s works use the symbol of a crown, which represents the recognition of Black monarchs and queens who shaped his global history. It also represents Basquiat’s vision of himself as a king, as evidenced by his profound lessons and persevering exhortation for people of color. Jazz musicians, sports heroes, his family, and community leaders were among the characters he crowned.
The “King Pleasure” exhibit provides viewers with a plethora of ideas as the death of Basquiat in 1988 was and continues to be a tragedy for many people.
How to get tickets
You can purchase tickets here. Tickets cost $30 for kids under 13, $32 each for students, $35 for adults and $65 to skip the line.
The exhibition is on view until September 5 and Starrett Lehigh is located at 601 West 26th Street, New York, NY 10001.
In other somewhat related news, Anna Delvey launched her art career with a convicted Basquiat forger.
Photo via Jean-Michel Basquiat