The toughest ticket in town for several months has been the free admission ticket to view the superb Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition at the new Brant Foundation art study center in the East Village, on view through May 15.
Since few have been lucky enough to get in the door, we’re giving you a peek inside through our Flickr album, featuring some of our favorite works on all four floors of the renovated space along East Sixth Street.
The show features over sixty of Basquiat’s works, primarily from 1981-1982. The paintings, drawings, and sculptures were created just after Basquiat stopped spray-painting building surfaces and doorways. It was a rough-and-ready time in the East Village, nearly a decade before the neighborhood became immortalized in the first draft of Rent.
Basquiat became known to downtown New Yorkers by signing his ubiquitous graffiti with “SAMO”. Although he dropped that signature in 1979, he never truly put away his spray can, shifting instead a more gestural mix of spray paint, crayons, and acrylics on wood panels and canvases that display his painterly genius, urban smarts, and social commentary.
The wide galleries and large, airy windows of the gallery space contrast to the voice and vision screaming out from every large work on the wall.
Many skulls, spirits, pop references, classical allusions, punky lettering, and gestural color are from 1981, the same year Basquiat had his first solo show in Modena, Italy. Per Capita brilliantly mixes sports, race, and economics with messy, riotous references to a deified African-American Olympic boxing legend and scratchy, handwritten national income statistics.
Basquiat’s 1982 work continues in the same vein – the year he was included in a prestigious solo show in glamorous Soho back home. The exhibition includes – but does not identify – the famous 1982 Basquiat skull painting acquired in 2017 by Yusaku Maezawa for $110 million, which was the subject of a one-painting show last year by the Brooklyn Museum.
The second floor displays a high-rise grid of Basquiat’s work from 1982, including a double portrait of himself and Andy.
Witnessing the scale and scope of this output by this 21-year-old genius is astonishing…just a fraction of the thousands of works he created before expiring just six years later.
Several later works are included. Two spectacular works from 1984 are Gold Griot, a magical man-spirit painted on a massive slatted wood panel, and Grillo, an elaborate three-dimensional installation on loan from the Louis Vuitton Foundation, which co-sponsored this exhibition.
Unbreakable from 1987 finishes up the show just before you exit through the back door beyond the gift shop, walk between the ancient buildings, and emerge onto East Seventh Street.
Enjoy walking through the show here.