Basquiat show­cased in Italy ret­ro­spec­tive

Kuwait Times - - WEEKENDER -


New York’s Eight­ies art scene is com­ing to Mi­lan with a show ded­i­cated to the late Haitian-Amer­i­can artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose works now sell for phe­nom­e­nal sums.

From his child-like skull and crown paint­ings to his poetic and enig­matic anatom­i­cal de­pic­tions, the Mu­seum of Cul­ture in the north Ital­ian city is hold­ing a ret­ro­spec­tive un­til Fe­bru­ary into the works of the art prodigy who died from a drug over­dose aged just 27. Born in 1960 in Brook­lyn to a Haitian fa­ther and Puerto Ri­can mother, the young, hand­some Basquiat be­came one of the most cel­e­brated and in­flu­en­tial artists of his gen­er­a­tion, leav­ing more than 2,000 draw­ings or paint­ings. “Basquiat con­quered the world” with his “ge­nius”, said Gianni Mercurio, who co-cu­rated the ex­hi­bi­tion with Jef­fery Deitch, who had been one of the painter’s friends. The ret­ro­spec­tive, which runs near chrono­log­i­cally, ex­hibits works ex­e­cuted be­tween 1980 and 1987, largely on loan from the pri­vate col­lec­tion of promi­nent New York art dealer Jose Mu­grabi, who also knew Basquiat.

Some 140 paint­ings, draw­ings and ce­ram­ics await vis­i­tors, from street art to the young­ster’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with pop art master Andy Warhol, who he met and formed a close re­la­tion­ship with in 1980.

Basquiat, who was a reg­u­lar mu­seum-goer as a child but dropped out of school at 16, first rose to promi­nence in the 1970s with graf­fi­tied state­ments across SoHo, done with friend Al Diaz and signed “SAMO” (“same old, same old bull­shit”). His work then be­gan to evolve into colour­ful paint­ings, using acrylics, oils, pas­tels and cre­at­ing col­lages on paint­ings, ta­bles or doors. Many of his cre­ations fea­ture words and have been de­scribed as bridg­ing tra­di­tional tribal art and so­cio-po­lit­i­cal mis­sives.

Pride and anger

His friend­ship with Warhol would mark him for­ever. “The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Warhol and Basquiat was a very close one: Basquiat re­garded Warhol as his spir­i­tual fa­ther, and Warhol saw in Basquiat the son he never had,” Mercurio told AFP. But the fruits of their col­lab­o­ra­tion, ex­hib­ited in Zurich and New York, “met with a neg­a­tive re­ac­tion in the press”.

“Some crit­ics said it was a com­mer­cial ploy to re­vi­tal­ize Warhol and con­sol­i­date Basquiat’s suc­cess, others said Warhol did what he wanted with Basquiat, crit­i­cisms which deeply hurt the al­ready frag­ile” New York artist, he said.

Basquiat broke off the col­lab­o­ra­tion but ap­peared to suf­fer his de­ci­sion. Warhol’s death in 1987 wors­ened his de­pres­sion and his heroin ad­dic­tion spi­ralled, leav­ing him dead a year later of an over­dose.

“Basquiat was an artist full of con­tra­dic­tions. His per­son­al­ity was based on pride. He wanted to be a fa­mous artist, not just a fa­mous black artist,” said Mercurio. “He said 80 per­cent of his work was done in anger. But at the same time, he was a sweet, hes­i­tant per­son. His fragility came from his fear of los­ing his suc­cess from one mo­ment to an­other,” he added.

He need not have wor­ried: his paint­ings and draw­ings to­day reg­u­larly beat the ex­pected price at auc­tions. Be­tween July 2015 and June 2016 his works were sold for a to­tal of $139.4 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to spe­cial­ists Art­price. And a new record was set in May at Christie’s in New York, with a huge self-por­trait go­ing for $57.2 mil­lion to a Ja­panese bil­lion­aire. Ac­cord­ing to Art­price, be­tween Jan­uary 2000 and Oc­to­ber 2016 the value of works of Basquiat rose a whop­ping 506 per­cent.


Peo­ple visit the ex­hi­bi­tion “JeanMichel Basquiat”, a ret­ro­spec­tive on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s car­reer from graf­fiti’s in New York to more com­plex work, on Oc­to­ber 27, 2016 at the Mudec Mu­seum in Mi­lan.

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