Jean-Michel Basquiat’s short-lived, but illustrious, career comes to life in the inaugural exhibition of The Brant Foundation Art Study Center’s new East Village space.
The work of Jean-Michel Basquiat is often regarded as the product of a disturbed mind. One of the first things that might come to mind when thinking of Basquiat is his drug use, which ultimately led to his untimely death. But his work tells a much deeper, albeit often dark, story.
Jean-Michel Basquiat grew up in a New York City riddled with crime and got his start in the art scene as a graffiti artist. A high school dropout, Basquiat was homeless and unemployed before his quick rise to fame landed him in an inner circle that included artists like Andy Warhol—one of his biggest art influences.
Basquiat’s works, many of which can be seen on display at The Brant Foundation, were social commentaries on topics like racism, power structures and class struggle, and colonialism. Spanning four floors, you start on the fourth and work your way down, where you’ll see some of the artist’s earliest works, as well as some of his most famous—you simply cannot miss his “Untitled” 1982 painting that went on to sell for an astonishing $110 million in 2017.
By the time you reach the first level, you’ll find just four works that have been grouped together; these pieces were created following the death of his friend Warhol. These post-Warhol works display an almost manic quality that includes repetitive texts, showcasing a battle with depression that Basquiat ultimately did not win.
The retrospective features a body of work that solidifies Basquiat's position as one of the most important contemporary artists of his time. While the exhibition is free, tickets are hard to come by, making it one of the most coveted shows to see. But once you’re in, you should savor each and every work. On display through May 15. 421 E. 6th St., brantfoundation.org