Sweeping Basquiat Show Curated By Its Sisters Offers An Intimate Look

Dressed in long shorts and a button-up shirt, 8-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat plays in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with his 4-year-old sister, Lisane. Playing with her on the grass next to her, she gently guides her one-year-old sister, Jeanine, by the hand.

These sisters, now 54 and 57 years old, have spent the last five years curating a comprehensive exhibition of her life and work, which will open Saturday at Starrett, browsing their sister’s paintings, drawings, photographs, VHS films, African sculpture collection, toys and memorabilia. . The Lehigh Building in Chelsea.

show,”Jean-Michel Basquiat: The King’s Pleasure”, in a 15,000-square-foot space designed by architect David Adjaye, contains more than 200 artworks and artifacts from the artist’s property, 177 of which have never been exhibited. Offering perhaps the most detailed self-portrait of Basquiat’s development to date, the exhibition comes at a time when the artist’s market value continues to rise and themes of race and self-identity particularly resonate. (The mayor’s office will announce the opening of the show on Saturday, which is Jean-Michel Basquiat Day.)

“They’re literally opening the safes,” said Brett Gorvy, a salesman and former president and international head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s. “These are only pictures I’ve seen in books.”

For example, the 41-metre “Nu Nile”, one of two huge paintings Basquiat painted for the Palladium nightclub in 1985, would fetch millions at auction.

While nothing on display is for sale, collectors will have the chance to test the Basquiat art market next month with his 1982 painting “Untitled (The Devil)”. going up for auction Estimated price at Phillips is $70 million. Live skull painting from the same year in 2017brought in $110.5 million It became the sixth most expensive piece ever to be auctioned at Sotheby’s and joined a group of rare pieces to break the $100 million record.

And Basquiat exhibits continue to evolve. Nahmad Contemporary gallery opens in Manhattan on Monday “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Art and Objectivity” Curated by Basquiat scholar Dieter Buchhart, she looks at the artist’s unconventional materials (doors, refrigerators, football helmets). Broad museum in Los Angeles currently showing 13 of the Basquiats in your collection. And in February, the Orlando Museum of Art opened an exhibition of 25 Basquiat works. its accuracy has been questioned.

An immersive journey into the making of Basquiat, the Starrett-Lehigh exhibition is an attempt at a different order. Besides presenting raw sketches, scribbles, and scribbled notes from an artist who has found her voice, the show feels like a revival of a family notebook filled with intimate works – Basquiat’s birth announcement (6 lbs., 10 oz.); a school report from when he lived in Puerto Rico; its blue-green dining tiles; his signature Comme Des Garçons trench coat.

“Traditional museum display tends to separate artwork from real life, and they’ve done the opposite,” said Jeffrey Deitch, the salesman who handed out Basquiat’s eulogy. dead “Jean-Michel’s life story and family story are fully integrated with the presentation of the artworks, giving you a much deeper insight into how the work was created, how it was inspired.”

“It’s not a professional academic presentation, but it’s very fresh,” Deitch added. “They created a new paradigm for how to create an art exhibition.”

Accompanied by a musical accompaniment by the artist – Diana Ross’ interpretation of “Ain’t No Mountain High is Enough High”; The Carpenters’ “(They Don’t Miss Being Near You)” – the show recreated Basquiat’s key physical spaces: his family’s dining room on Boerum Hill (with the original spice rack and wooden fish plate); painting studio at 57 Great Jones Street (with stacks of books, a pair of wine glasses); The Palladium’s Michael Todd VIP Room—complete with mirrors, draped beads, and candlesticks—is where Basquiat spends many evenings.

“We wanted people to come and have the experience of Jean-Michel – human, son, brother, cousin,” Jeanine Heriveaux said in a recent sit-down interview with her sister at Starrett-Lehigh. “Getting people through this process in a way that makes us feel right and good.”

The women who run the site along with their stepmother, Nora Fitzpatrick, curated and executive produced the show – from the songs heard over the speakers in the Todd Room to the wall text – motivated by a desire to bring all this material together. to enliven a single place and the often mythologized picture of his brothers. “For 33 years, from art collectors to children, we have been continually asked for more information, for more Jean-Michel, more Jean-Michel,” said Lisane Basquiat. “It’s our way of reacting to that.”

Profit also seems to be a clear part of that. The show requires a timed admission fee – $45 for adults on weekends, $65 to skip the queue (students, seniors, and less on weekdays). And a “King Pleasure Emporium” features licensed sportswear, leather goods, stationery, pet accessories, and household items inspired by Basquiat, as well as the $55 book published by Rizzoli Electa that accompanies the show.

Some longtime Basquiatphiles have no problem with the commercial ingredient. “It’s great that art products with images of Jean-Michel Basquiat are available to people who don’t have the resources to buy a super-expensive drawing or painting,” Deitch said.

“I like the way art comes out,” he continued, adding that it can enable the family to “generate income through licensing without having to sell the art.”

Despite being led by the sisters, the exhibition became a pure family affair. Fitzpatrick co-wrote the book with Lisane and Jeanine. Jeanine’s daughter, Sophia, came up with the name of the show, inspired by 1987’s title. basquiat painting (with the artist’s repeating crown motif) – and the 1952 jazz vocalist of “Moody’s Mood for Love” was a favorite of Basquiat’s father, Gerard.

“Everyone in the family got in one way or another,” Lisane said. “It’s a way of bringing our ancestry together and documenting what has happened so far through Jean-Michel. 33 years ago we lost a sibling and our parents lost a son. This project has been an opportunity for us. It was cathartic.”

The show is organized around themes, starting with 1960, the year of Basquiat’s birth, and “Kings County,” which chronicles the artist’s childhood in Brooklyn and Puerto Rico. An annotated map of New York City shows highlights in Basquiat’s life – Chock Full o’ Nuts, where his mother loves coffee; Pearl Paint, from which he bought art supplies; Sheepshead Bay Piers, where her family went to eat mussels.

There’s also a series of oral history videos featuring friends and family members like cousin Reuben Andrades, who describe how Basquiat draws figures he calls the “Curlys”, which are similar to the Smurfs with their social positions (“firefighters, police officers”). ”).

In a video, Jeanine describes how her brother convinced her to jump out of the wardrobe with an umbrella and try to fly like Mary Poppins. (“It didn’t work.”) In another, Lisane recalls how Jean-Michel was visiting a friend in a suburban backyard and suggested that they sing “I’m Black and I’m proud” at the top of their lungs (“an adult told us to come and cut it.”) until”).

The only work in the exhibition that does not belong to Basquiat are the silkscreen family portraits of Warhol, a close friend of the artist.

Childhood home movies herald the sartorial grace that has become Basquiat’s hallmark as an adult – here he is, in a tight robe, a navy blue cap, and suspenders.

The poignancy of a life ending too soon pervades the show, confirming the Basquiat appeal that has captivated aspiring painters, graffiti artists, museum curators and mercenary collectors. The gallerist Joe Nahmad said, “20. “An artist who epitomizes much of the 20th century – Picasso, Rauschenberg, Twombly – but also influential for a new generation of artists.” “It takes you to the future, to what’s happening today.”

The sisters’ show can sometimes feel like a legend; There is little discussion of Basquiat’s demons or aspects of domestic life that can be difficult. According to Phoebe Hoban’s 1998 biography, “Basquiat: A Quick Kill in Art” “When I was a kid, my mom beat me up because I wore my underwear inside out, which meant I was gay for her,” the artist said in an interview.

“He told his girlfriends and art dealers that he was badly beaten by his father as a child,” Hoban continues. “Gerard Basquiat denies doing more than beating his son with a belt.”

But the catalog occasionally deals with the darker aspects of Basquiat’s history and explains how his parents—Gerard, a Haitian immigrant, and Matilde, an artist of Puerto Rican descent born in Brooklyn, separated. How Gerard (who dead In 2013) he raised all three children and has sometimes struggled to reconcile his ideas of success with his son’s less traditional goals.

“Jean-Michel was dedicated to being an artist, and my father’s fears for him – his lack of a stable and secure life – came out as anger and frustration,” writes Lisane in the catalogue. “Jean-Michel escaped several times. Every day he was there and one day he wasn’t—there was really no discussion about it. Jean-Michel would never fit the vision my father had for his life.”

The sisters said they agreed that the show represented their own version of events. They are not academics or curators. They set out to tell the story of the loving, mischievous, creative young man they grew up with, a great artist.

“Jean-Michel is fire and has always been fire. Fire,” Lisane writes. “He was my protective, rambling, pioneering older brother who paved the way for many things for Jeanine and me. Jean-Michel was a huge energy entering this world.”

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