Brooklyn Museum to Exhibit Rare Basquiat Notebooks

Jean-Michel Basquiat Untitled (1986).
Photo: Gavin Ashworth, Brooklyn Museum.

This coming April the Brooklyn Museum will display eight never-before-seen notebooks by the late painter Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The notebooks chronicle Basquiat’s most significant and tumultuous years—from 1980 to 1987—including the Brooklyn-native’s rise to prominence as a professional artist between 1981 and 1983, his professional struggles after 1986, his heroin addiction, and his friendship and collaboration with Andy Warhol, which lasted until his death in 1988. Basqiuat’s notebooks (160 pages of them) include sketches, carefully transcribed notes, bits of poetry, and other entries from the artist, who, in his youth, was a junior member of the museum beginning at age six.

Collector Larry Warsh is responsible for the notebooks, which the exhibition’s co-organizer, Tricia Laughlin Bloom, says are important to understanding the self-taught Basquiat’s often glossed-over motivations and intellectual process that inspired his art.

“So much attention is given to him as a Neo-expressionist painter, but there’s another piece, and something else was driving him, which was his social conscience, his love of language, and his desire to get a message across,” she told TAN. “One of his strategies is to compress a lot of meaning into a single image or word, and the notebooks really bring that out.”

The upcoming exhibition will be the museum’s first major show since 2005 focusing on Basquiat and will incorporate 30 separate pieces taken from other collections to go along with the notebooks. Jeffrey Deitch, a close friend of the painter who was long considered to be Basquait’s principal dealer, told arnet News over the phone that the notebooks are significant for many of the same reasons cited by Bloom, calling Warsh’s collection “a remarkable set of documents that together form a lexicon of words.”

“Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum April 3–August 23, 2015 and should draw a substantial number of visitors given the artist’s status as a celebrity icon.

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