Basquiat: Boom For Real opens at Barbican Centre

PUBLISHED: 17:00 25 September 2017

Untitled 1982, Courtesy Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Picture: Studio Tromp, Rotterdam

Untitled 1982, Courtesy Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Picture: Studio Tromp, Rotterdam


The largest UK exhibition of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat​ opens at the Barbican

Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, 1983. Picture: Roland Hagenberg Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, 1983. Picture: Roland Hagenberg

A new exhibition is opening at the Barbican celebrating the work of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat: Boom for Real is the first UK exhibition of his work on such a large scale, covering his relationthip with music, writing, film, television and performance.

As one of the most important painters of the last century, Basquiat’s work is instantly recognisable. While he has international acclaim – he was the youngest ever artist to participate in Documenta 7 (a contemporary art exhibition which takes place in Kassel, Germany every five years and has featured such artists as Picasso, Miro and Kandinsky) - not a single work of his is held in a UK public collection.

Head of Visual Arts Jane Alison says: “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.”

With paintings, drawings, notebooks, film, photography, music and archival material, Basquiat: Boom for Real hopes to give a rounded view of his life, practice and outstanding contribution to many creative fields.

Glenn 1984, Private collection. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Glenn 1984, Private collection. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Born in 1960, he came to the attention of the public with his classmate Al Diaz, in the late 70s post punk underground scene of downtown New York. He made works from baseball cards and postcards, painting on clothing and improvised canvases and used his own blood. His work focused around “suggestive dichotomies”, marrying text and image to explore ideas of wealth v poverty, integration v segregation, and inner v outer experience.

Social commentary was at the root of his work, with his criticisms of power structures, colonialism and class divides.

He collaborated famously with Andy Warhol, starred in a film with Debbie Harry, appeared in cult show TV Party and performed with his experimental band Gray, before dying from a heroin overdose at the age of 27

Boom for Real brings together more than 100 works in an exhibition that is, in the words of his sisters Lisane and Jeanine, “so long overdue”.

Basquiat: Boom for Real, Barbican Art Gallery, September 21 – January 28. A series of talks and events accompany the exhibition: The Grime and the Glamour: NYC 1976-90 (film); nitroBEAT – nitroBEAT pit party – Suckerpunch Boom Suite (theatre); Too Young for What? (arts)

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