His birth announcement from 1960. Baby pictures and family photos from his childhood.
A teenage testimony with a teacher’s comments: ‘Jean Michel faces doom; He talks a lot to his neighbors and periodically interrupts my classes.”
A passport from 1986.
A tiny detail of the amazing collection of objects related to the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat, currently on display as part of the exhibition “Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure” presented by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s family at RXR’s Starrett -Lehigh Building in West Chelsea New York.
Artworks from childhood including newsletters from City-as-School, sketchbooks, doodles, cartoons. Notes and poems from his whole life. Items he has collected. African artworks, artworks by Sam Doyle, a little-known black artist from South Carolina, and Allison Saar, one of contemporary art’s brightest stars.
Books about Michelangelo, Picasso, Matisse, African art, Cameroonian art, Black Hollywood. magazines and comics. Old cameras. videotapes. “Psycho”, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, “Apocalypse Now” and also “Pretty in Pink”, “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”.
The life of the late 20th centuryth The most popular artist of the century unfolds on 15,000 square meters with breathtaking intimacy. Conceived by his two sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, and his stepmother, Nora Fitzpatrick, the exhibition presents itself as more of a walk-through family scrapbook than a pompous art exhibition.
“The intent (was) to allow visitors a glimpse of his personal belongings, including ephemera, photos, records, etc.,” Lisane Basquiat told Forbes.com. “The display of these items reveals the deeper layers of who Jean-Michel was as a person, a glimpse into some of what influenced his creative process, and a glimpse into some of what he used as source material.”
The photos – with Richard Pryor and Keith Haring and Debby Harry – as well as those with his parents and sisters, as well as those of Madonna and with Andy Warhol, the scraps of paper, the personal belongings of this beloved and tragic figure almost achieve the impossible: the work of art overshadow.
All these things share the highest rank with the works of art, amazing paintings, drawings and sculptures throughout his life.
A 41-foot-wide painting titled “Nu Nile” completed in 1985 as one of two full-length works for the Palladium nightclub. Amazingly, it’s the original.
Images of police violence. Painting on old wood. Black celebrity paintings. Paintings from his estate managed by the sisters that have never been shown to the public. Paintings worth untold hundreds of millions at auction.
However, this presentation is not about the celebrity Basquiat. Basquiat the superstar artist. This exhibition is, for the first time, about Basquiat the Kid in a way that can only be shared by the family. Basquiat the teenager. Basquiat the prankster. Basquiat the brother and son.
“The exhibition provides context to Jean-Michel’s life that was missing from the narrative,” said Lisane Basquiat. “(Visitors) gain insight into aspects of his roots and childhood, including a chance to see a recreation of rooms in his childhood home.”
And personal stories of the artist, told by those who knew him best.
How he taught Lisane to drink and drink alcohol in high school so she wouldn’t be taken advantage of by guys at parties. The Rizzoli Electra exhibition catalog shares all of these unwaveringly honest memories. Fortunately, it also reads more like a family photo album, short text, long photos, with essays and perspectives not by academics, but by Lisane and Jeanine and Nora and friends of the artist.
The humanity of Jean-Michel Basquiat shines through in a way none of the hundreds of other exhibitions of his artwork since his death in 1988 from a heroin overdose has — or could.
Memories of the news of his death are shared. As told to Jeanine by her father on the phone. Nora Fitzpatrick remembers he died on a Friday. She remembers that Jean-Michel’s body was identified at the coroner’s office because his father could not face the task.
While he doesn’t shy away from the circumstances of his death, “King Pleasure” is a celebration of his life. A reminder of how young he was, his baby face made him seem even younger. He was just 23, 24, 25 years old when he started traveling the world, making hundreds of thousands of dollars for his paintings, meeting celebrities, partying in nightclubs and befriending Andy Warhol.
Among the amazing details of Basquiat’s life revealed in the exhibition is how Warhol created silkscreen portraits of Basquiat’s father, mother and sister Jeanine in 1986. The three artworks are included in the exhibition.
As was an invitation to a private lunch after Andy Warhol’s funeral service in 1987.
The highlight of the exhibition, however, is a stunning recreation of the artist’s 1983 57 Great Jones Street Studio, which includes paintings, drawings, sketches, personal effects, his furniture, videotapes and book collections.
It’s as close to a visit to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s studio as the world will ever get.
How was this space reproduced with such extraordinary detail that is almost ghostly in its likeness?
“Well, we were there as we knew,” explains Lisane Basquiat. “We also used photos to help us fill in some of the details that we had forgotten. Our aim was to provide an immersive experience, allowing the visitor to glimpse a moment in Jean-Michel’s life.”
The studio recreation also includes Basquiat’s bicycle, his main mode of transportation around town, as he had trouble hailing taxis successfully as a black man.
“King Pleasure” focuses on Jean-Michel Basquiat, the man, not the icon, thereby deepening the appreciation for an artist who is already among the few of the most cherished in history, a reflection of those artists, their biographies included in his book collection.
Basquiat has been gone for far longer than the 27 short years of his life. However, public interest in him continues to grow.
“Jean-Michel was a brilliant artist and someone who openly reflected on his position on cultural, racial and political issues,” Lisane said of her brother and the ability of his artwork to continue to reach people. “Our society continues to struggle with many of the issues he implied through his social narrative. His is also an incredibly inspirational story about what can happen when you set out to make something happen and go through that journey by whatever means necessary.
Basquiat – the man, the myth, the mysticism, the art, the face – has transcended the notoriety of the art world in a way few artists ever have, his image and iconic crown symbol now firmly entrenched in the wider culture.
“I’m sure people will still be amazed by his work in a hundred years and beyond.”
The closing line of another notable artifact from “King Pleasure,” a copy of the eulogy read by art dealer Jeffrey Deitch at Basquiat’s funeral on August 17, 1988.
The exhibit will be on view through Labor Day, with hopes of an extension.
Elsewhere in New York
King Pleasure isn’t the only Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition currently on view in New York, Nahmad Contemporary is offering Jean-Michel Basquiat: Art and Objecthood, running through June 11 as the first presentation dedicated to his work is the role of found objects and unconventional materials.
This spring is a great time to see art around the city.
Faith Ringgold in the New Museum. Winslow Homer at the Met.
Sapar Contemporary takes audiences where most have never ventured during “Moods in the Meta,” an exhibition of leading practitioner Uuriintuya Dagvasambuu’s Mongolian Zurag painting, through May 7.
Beginning April 28, Lehmann Maupin will be presenting new works by New York City-based artist Nari Ward. Ward creates sculptures and installations composed of discarded materials found and collected in his Harlem neighborhood, including repurposed items such as strollers, shopping carts, bottles, keys, cash registers, and shoelaces, among other materials.
The Hollis Taggart Gallery continues its much-needed advocacy for Michael (Corinne) West, a first-generation Abstract Expressionist artist who should be much better known and respected. An exhibition of her drawings can be seen from May 4th to 27th.
European Fine Art Fair New York returns May 6-10 for the first time since 2019, once again offering enthusiasts, collectors, design professionals and museum curators one-stop shopping at the Park Avenue Armory for the best of the best in modern and Contemporary art, jewellery, antiques and design brought together by nearly 100 leading exhibitors from around the world.
There’s even new art to see outside. Check out the 14 oversized sculptures (pictured above) welcoming New Yorkers and visitors entering the heart of Midtown Manhattan in the Garment District (on Broadway between 38th and 41st Streets), created by artist Santi Flores became.