Jean-Michel Basquiat Retrospective in Paris

The major retrospective of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work—“Basquiat”—that has been going on in France at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris since October 15, 2010, is still on view until January 30, 2011. The Paris Museum of Modern Art joined forces with the Beyeler Foundation (in Basel) [also see previous post Art Exhibition: Basquiat] for the “Herculean task” of gathering 100 major Basquiat creations (86 paintings, 65 drawings, and 11 objects) plus the Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, an intimate documentary by Basquiat’s former girlfriend Tamra Davis [also see previous post Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child].

In a fine review of the retrospective, points out the difficulty of putting together this show explaining that Basquiat’s work has been held mainly by private collectors and distributed, often in single pieces, among many museums and foundations around the world, including two pieces in France: one canvas in the Beaubourg museum and one at the Museum of Marseille. Since the 1984 collective exhibition “Figuration Libre,” Basquiat’s work had never been shown in Paris.

The article also underlines the fact that, without Basquiat, graffiti would have remained a minor, marginalized art: “Before Basquiat, street art was born in New York in the early 1970s, made of tags, frescoes, with markers or spray paint, was carried out by anonymous artists (Taki 183…). It was then considered to be vandalism. But the second generation of Futura 2000 and Lee Quinones managed to interest galleries (Fashion Moda, Fun Gallery) right before Basquiat ‘crowned’ the genre [with success].”

The article highlights the artist’s energy and color: “In Basquiat’s paintings, color jumps to the eye,” “Frank, vital, explosive. [. . .] At the beginning of the 1980s, he broke away from the stiffness and austerity of the conceptual art that then dominated the American avant-garde.” It adds, “He illuminates, multicolored [flashes], enhanced by red, yellow, orange, as if he wanted to ignite his work. He renders the violent and anarchic vivacity of his sources of inspiration: jazz, hip hop, comic books, advertising, Vodoun, boxing…” also highlights Basquiat’s tragic fate, his friendship with Warhol, his flirtation with Madonna, his mounting paranoia, and most tragically, his addiction to heroin and death by overdose at the age of 27 on August 12, 1988: “Madonna herself said that ‘he was too sensitive for the hard world surrounding him.’”

For full review (in French), see  

Photo of Basquiat’s “Early Moses,” from 

For samples of his work and a video with an artist, see

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