Basquiat makes a comeback with latest exhibition King Pleasure in New York

Curated by the family of late American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, the exhibition presents over 200 unseen pieces illustrating Jean-Michel’s life from an intimate perspective.

by STIRworldPublished on : Apr 30, 2022

The art of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) is both universal and world-renowned, yet it is also profoundly personal and intimate. In all of his contributions to art history, he explored themes that are still relevant today, such as inequality, social justice, and classism, women's objectification and the history of the African-American experience. Basquiat was a generous, inquisitive, smart, fun-loving, and hardworking individual. No one understands his inner strength and courage better than his family, who are now bringing to the public a glimpse into his world through never seen before masterpieces to light. The family of Jean-Michel Basquiat is presenting Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure, a 12,000 sqft immersive exhibition celebrating the life and art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, at New York City's landmark Starrett-Lehigh Building. The showcase also includes live music, fashion shows, performances, and educational initiatives in the spirit of Basquiat.

Installation view of the exhibition | Jean-Michel Basquiat | Exhibition | STIRworld
Installation view of the exhibition Image: Ivane Katamashvili, Courtesy of Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure

For the first time, the Basquiat family is revealing their collection and providing an intimate insight into Basquiat’s life in a way that only they can. The show, which includes over 200 works and objects from the estate's collection, 177 of which haven’t previously been seen, takes visitors from his early infancy to his posthumous achievements, and contextualises how his ancestry and family influenced his work. The late artist’s two sisters, Jeanine and Lisane, have curated the exhibition. They occupy a unique position in the art world as two Black women who are not part of the art establishment yet manage one of the world's most important and precious collections.

Portrait of Jeanine and Lisane | Jean-Michel Basquiat | Exhibition | STIRworld
Portrait of Jeanine and Lisane Image: Miranda Penn Turin, Courtesy of Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure

“This is a way for us to collaborate as a community and fill in the spaces from all of our perspectives on Basquiat and his impact on the world. It’s a gift to our family and others that they can look at this personal account of who he was,” Lisane explains. “We wanted to bring his work and personality forward, in a way only we can, for people to immerse themselves in. We want this to be an experiential and multi-dimensional celebration of Jean-Michel's life."

Charles the First, 1982, Acrylic and oil stick on canvas, triptych| Jean-Michel Basquiat | Exhibition | STIRworld
Charles the First, 1982, Acrylic and oil stick on canvas, triptych Image: Courtesy of Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure

According to official reports, this art exhibition showcasing the man behind the icon has been years in the making, from the initial idea in 2017 around the 30th anniversary of Basquiat’s passing to now, as Jeanine illustrates: “There’s been many exhibitions of Basquiat’s work, but never told from the perspective of the family – Basquiat as a child, a man, a son, and a brother. As we were all in lockdown, we said: ‘You know what, maybe now is the right time.’” King Pleasure takes its title from a painting created by Basquiat in 1987, as well as the name of a bebop loving bartender turned jazz vocalist whose "Moody's Mood For Love" closed out Frankie Crocker’s show on WBLS, and marked a place in time for the Basquiat family. “Jean-Michel was a king – I think the title sums him up perfectly,” Jeanine says.

Jean-Michel Basquiat | Exhibition | STIRworld
Jean-Michel Basquiat Image: James Van der Zee Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Jean-Michel, a self-taught artist, was able to navigate both his creative talent and the professional complexities of an industry he'd had no prior exposure to at such a young age, forging relationships with iconic artists like Andy Warhol, gallerists like Annina Nosei, musicians like Madonna, John Lurie, David Byrne, Debbie Harry, and Fred Brathwaite (Fab 5 Freddy), as well as photographers like Michael Halsband, and curators who all helped set the tone for his explosive career.

Untitled (Thor), 1982, Acrylic and oil stick on canvas | Jean Michel Basquiat | Exhibition | STIRworld
Untitled (Thor), 1982, Acrylic and oil stick on canvas Image: Courtesy of Jean Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure
Basquiat’s never seen before paintings at the exhibition | Jean-Michel Basquiat | Exhibition | STIRworld
Basquiat’s never seen before paintings at the exhibition Image: Ivane Katamashvili; Courtesy of Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure
First exhibition put up by Basquiat’s sisters | Jean-Michel Basquiat | Exhibition | STIRworld
First exhibition put up by Basquiat’s sisters Image: Ivane Katamashvili, Courtesy of Jean Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure

“It was important to have a show that all people want to experience. We want them to see Basquiat in themselves, an artist that looks like them. We want it to be completely accessible for those who have felt intimidated in the past by going to a museum,” Jeanine explains. Lisane adds: “I want people to walk away with inspiration, hope & confidence in themselves to do the same thing with whatever it is for them – whether it’s painting, music or being an accountant. To live their lives with that same commitment, dedication and grit.”

Jean Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure is on view at the Starrett-Lehigh Building in New York City.

(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))

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