Basquiat Under New Lens: Timely Exploration Of Race Identity, Activism In Little-Seen “Defacement”
Trendy teens and twenty-somethings scoop up T-shirts featuring iconic images by Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Uniqlo store in Manhattan’s SoHo, a short walk from the artist’s NoHo studio where he was found dead three decades ago of a heroin overdose at age 27. Last year, Basquiat’s 1982 “Untitled,” a colorful and jarring painting of a skull, sold for a staggering $110.5 million at Sotheby’s.
There’s no doubt the prolific neo-expressionist remains popular and relevant in today’s art and pop culture worlds, but digging deeper into his career and personal struggles reveals timely themes that continue to torment America.
An American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, Basquiat exploded onto the art world as part of graffiti duo SAMO, tagging Manhattan’s Lower East Side with powerful epigrams (pithy, surprising, and sometimes satirical statements) in the late 1970s, empowering the intersection of hip hop, punk, and street art. By the 1980s, his paintings were on view at museums and galleries worldwide.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City will present Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story, a thematic exhibition examining the work of Basquiat and his contemporaries from the lens of his cultural and racial identity and social activism.
Organized by guest curator Chaédria LaBouvier, in collaboration with Nancy Spector, Artistic Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator, and Joan Young, Director of Curatorial Affairs, exhibition runs from June 21, 2019, to November 6, 2019. The focal point will be “Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart)”, Basquiat’s 1983 tribute to fellow black artist Michael Stewart, who died of cardiac arrest following 13 days in a coma at age 25 after his arrest by New York City Transit Police for spray-painting graffiti on a New York City Subway wall at the First Avenue station in Manhattan’s East Village.