Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in 1960 in New York City, where he died in 1988. Born to a Haitian father and a Puerto-Rican mother, Basquiat left his family home in Brooklyn, New York at the age of fifteen and took to the streets. A voracious autodidact, he quickly became a denizen of the explosive and decadent New York underground scene—a noise musician who loved jazz, and a street poet who scrawled his sophisticated aphorisms in Magic Marker across the walls of downtown Manhattan, copyrighting them under the name SAMO. In 1981, he killed off this alter ego and began painting and drawing, first on salvaged materials then later on canvas and paper, and making bricolage with materials scavenged from the urban environment. From the outset he worked compulsively; his passion for words and music, his intense yet fluid energy, and the heterogeneous materials that he employed so freely imbued his work with urgency and excitement. He sold his first painting in 1981, and by 1982, spurred by the Neo-Expressionist art boom, his work was in great demand. In 1985, he was featured on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in connection with an article on the newly exuberant international art market. In that photograph, Basquiat is a vision of cool, sprawled in a chair in an elegant three-piece suit and tie, with bunched dreadlocks and bare feet, in front of a large, bold painting—a supernova in the making.
Charismatic image aside, Basquiat was a prodigious young talent, fusing drawing and painting with history and poetry to produce an unprecedented artistic language and content that bridged cultures and enunciated alternative histories. Combining materials and techniques with uninhibited yet knowing and precise intent, his paintings maintain a powerful tension between opposing aesthetic forces—expression and knowledge, control and spontaneity, savagery and wit, urbanity and primitivism—while providing acerbic commentary on the harsh realities of race, culture, and society.
Basquiat is represented in several prominent museum collections all over the world. Major solo exhibitions include “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings 1981–1984,” Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (1984; traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, through 1985); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1992; traveled to the Menil Collection, Houston; the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Alabama, through 1994); “Basquiat,” Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York (2005; traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, through 2006); Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland (2010; traveled to Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris); and “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks,” Brooklyn Museum, New York (2015). Basquiat starred in “Downtown 81,” a verité movie that was written by Glenn O’Brien, shot by Edo Bertoglio, and produced by Maripol in 1981, but not released until 2000.
Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now
In partnership with English Heritage
April 12–May 18, 2019
Grosvenor Hill, London
Extended through November 19, 2016
From Modigliani to Currin
September 20–November 19, 2016
980 Madison Avenue, New York
Extended through September 17, 2016
A group exhibition of text-based works
June 1–September 17, 2016
Private Pages Made Public
Megan N. Liberty explores artists’ engagement with notebooks and diaries, thinking through the various meanings that arise when these private ledgers become public.
Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt
Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2019
The Spring 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Red Pot with Lute Player #2 by Jonas Wood on its cover.
Jean-Michel in Black and White
Fred Hoffman looks back on the creation of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Tuxedo (1983), examining the work’s significance in relation to identity and the hip-hop culture of the 1980s.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (L.A. Painting) (1982) was a game changer. Text by Derek Blasberg.
Visions of the Self
Rembrandt and Now
Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 6:30–8:30pm
Kenwood House, London
In the interest of public health, this event has been postponed until further notice.
Gagosian is pleased to host a drinks reception to celebrate the release of Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now, published on the occasion of the recent eponymous exhibition at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London. Organized in partnership with English Heritage, the exhibition places Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles (c. 1665) in dialogue with self-portraits by Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lucian Freud, and Pablo Picasso, as well as leading contemporary artists such as Georg Baselitz, Glenn Brown, Urs Fischer, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Giuseppe Penone, Richard Prince, Jenny Saville, Cindy Sherman, and Rudolf Stingel, among others. The catalogue includes an introduction by Wendy Monkhouse, senior curator at English Heritage, and a text by art historian David Freedberg. To attend the free event, RSVP to email@example.com. Space is limited.
Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now (London: Gagosian, 2020)
Frieze Los Angeles 2020
How to Shrink L.A.
February 14–16, 2020, booth C06
Paramount Picture Studios, Los Angeles
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Frieze Los Angeles 2020. Taking Los Angeles’s system of highways as a literal and figurative backdrop, the selection includes Richard Prince’s full-scale car sculpture Untitled (2008) and Chris Burden’s ominously oversize L.A.P.D. Uniform (1993). The booth also includes work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Chamberlain, Urs Fischer, Theaster Gates, Piero Golia, Alex Israel, Sally Mann, Adam McEwen, Cady Noland, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Taryn Simon, Robert Therrien, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, and others.
Chris Burden, How to Shrink L.A., 1999 © 2020 Chris Burden/Licensed by the Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Art Basel Miami Beach 2019
December 5–8, 2019, booth D7
Miami Beach Convention Center
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Miami Beach 2019 with modern and contemporary artworks by Richard Avedon, Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joe Bradley, Cecily Brown, John Chamberlain, John Currin, Edmund de Waal, Rachel Feinstein, Urs Fischer, Helen Frankenthaler, Ellen Gallagher, Theaster Gates, Katharina Grosse, Mark Grotjahn, Jennifer Guidi, Simon Hantaï, Damien Hirst, Alex Israel and Bret Easton Ellis, Ellsworth Kelly, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Peter Marino, Adam McEwen, Joan Mitchell, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Steven Parrino, Pablo Picasso, Rudolf Polanszky, Richard Prince, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Rudolf Stingel, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Mary Weatherford, Tom Wesselmann, Jonas Wood, Christopher Wool, and Zao Wou-Ki, among others.
Tom Wesselmann, Sunset Nude with Wesselmann Still Life, 2004 © The Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by ARS/VAGA, New York
Grief and Grievance
Art and Mourning in America
Through June 6, 2021
New Museum, New York
Grief and Grievance, originally conceived by curator Okwui Enwezor (1963–2019), is an intergenerational exhibition, bringing together thirty-seven artists working in a variety of mediums who have addressed the concept of mourning, commemoration, and loss as a direct response to the national emergency of racist violence experienced by Black communities across America. The intertwined phenomena of Black grief and a politically orchestrated white grievance are further considered, as each structures and defines contemporary American social and political life. The exhibition comprises works encompassing video, painting, sculpture, installation, photography, sound, and performance made within the last decade, along with several key historical works and a series of new commissions created in response to the concept of the exhibition. Work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ellen Gallagher, and Theaster Gates is included.
Theaster Gates, Gone Are the Days of Shelter and Martyr, 2014 (still) © Theaster Gates
Writing the Future
Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation
Through July 25, 2021
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The post-graffiti moment in 1980s New York City marked the transition of street art from city walls and subway trains onto canvas and into the art world. Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) became the frontrunner of this transformational movement in contemporary American art, which resulted in an unprecedented fusion of creative energies that defied long-standing racial divisions. This exhibition features Basquiat’s works in painting, sculpture, drawing, video, music, and fashion, alongside works by his contemporaries, such as Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, Keith Haring, and Rammellzee. Throughout the 1980s, these artists fueled new directions in fine art, design, and music, driving the now-global popularity of hip-hop culture.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Anthony Clarke, 1985 © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York
Around Day’s End
Downtown New York, 1970–1986
September 3–November 1, 2020
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
This exhibition pays homage to Gordon Matta-Clark’s legendary Day’s End (1975) and features works by twenty-two artists who engaged with the Meatpacking District and West Side piers, among other downtown Manhattan locations, in the 1970s and early 1980s. The show also anticipates David Hammons’s monumental public artwork Day’s End, to be completed in December 2020 and located directly across from the Whitney in Hudson River Park. Work by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Richard Serra is included.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Plaid), 1982, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York
Works from the Brant Foundation
November 13, 2019–September 3, 2020
Brant Foundation, New York
Bringing together more than twenty artists integral to the Brant Foundation’s collection, this exhibition offers a glimpse into the multifaceted practices of artists whose work Peter M. Brant has collected over the past fifty years. Work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Urs Fischer, Mike Kelley, Adam McEwen, Richard Prince, Andy Warhol, and Franz West is included.
Installation view, Third Dimension: Works from the Brant Foundation, Brant Foundation, New York, November 13, 2019–September 3, 2020. Artwork, front to back: © Urs Fischer, © Dan Flavin