Jean-Michel Basquiat

On this date in 1960 Haitian American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat was born.  The Barbican Gallery, London is currently showing an exhibition of his work – Boom for Real which definitely worth a visit.  I was lucky enough to catch it earlier this month when I was in London for business and its brilliant.

The BBC also have a great documentary available called Basquiat Rage to Riches which I think is still available on the iPlayer and is definitely worth watching.  If you can’t get to the Barbican this is a good second option albeit without the pleasure of seeing the original work up close and personal.

The documentary tells the story of his rise to success and gives a great insight into the scene in New York at the time of his painting.  If you do intend to visit the exhibition watch the documentary before you go as it gives you a much insight into the work and also means that you don’t have to worry too much is the viewing areas for the various videos displayed are overcrowded.

If you are planning to visit make sure you book in advance.  I tried to go in November and popped in before we went to the theatre and admission is pre-book only with timed entry.

Also there’s a great article in the Guardian that asks the question if the brilliantly promising artist whose paintings delight and dazzle the eye and mind in this retrospective were still alive, he’d be celebrating his 57th birthday come December. What kind of middle-aged artist might he make? The article goes on to say It’s hard to imagine him getting any older than 27, the age when drugs took his life. It is like trying to picture a Van Gogh who never shot himself, a Keats who recovered from tuberculosis and lived to be poet laureate definitely worth a read –

Basquiat’s art is fascinating, the usual comments talk about how he challenged the viewer to consider power, wealth, rascism and politicals but what really struck me was the freedom and anarchic feel his work has.

When you look at his sketchbook pages it really struck me that I couldn’t imagine being able to create that type of work not because of any technical ability although he definitely had that (very evident when you look at the quick representations of Warhol that he produced that perfectly capture the characteristics and personality of his fellow artist) but more feeling that free not to care about conforming to any norms or worrying about what people thought.

What also surprised me about his work was when you first look at it it feels quite violent and disturbing but I’d happily have a piece on my wall at home and look on it each day, a discussion I had with one of the designers at work.  Sadly owning a piece of his work is way outside of my price range but I am hoping that my husband took the not too subtle hint to buy me the book from the exhibition.

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