A Basquiat You Can Wear: The Late Artist’s Sisters Have Tapped 9 New York City Designers to Reimagine His Art as High Fashion

For the final month of its storied run, the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition "King Pleasure" has commissioned fashion capsules from 9 Black designers.

Fashion designer Brandon Blackwood featuring Jean-Michel Basquiat for the Those Who Dress Better program. Courtesy of "King Pleasure."

King Pleasure,” a sprawling exhibition at Chelsea’s Starrett-Lehigh building that centers Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life through rare artifacts from his estate, has welcomed over 160,000 visitors since opening in April.

The show is the first organized by Basquiat’s sisters Jeanine Heriveaux and Lisane Basquiat. It features re-creations of the artist’s childhood home and his storied studio apartment—and, as of December 7, a ready-to-wear apparel and accessories collection interpreting the artist’s work, designed by nine fashion talents for the show’s Those Who Dress Better program in partnership with Black Fashion Fair.

Fresh twists across the limited-run capsule collection are on view in “King Pleasure” through December 15, with more accessible designs available for sale in the adjacent “King Pleasure” Emporium and on Black Fashion Fair’s website.

Hanifa for the Those Who Dress Better program. Courtesy of “King Pleasure.”

“The driving inspiration behind the Those Who Dress Better program was the estate’s desire to support these nine emerging fashion designers, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs,” Programming Director Anthony Konigbagbe told Artnet News. “Fashion was very important to Jean-Michel.”

Black Fashion Fair worked with the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat to curate New York-based Black designers on the rise: Theophilo, Brandon Blackwood, Hanifa, Who Decides War, Johnny Nelson, Bed on Water, Advisry, Homage Year, and Head of State. When “King Pleasure” opened, each designer was invited to explore the exhibition, to get inspired by Basquiat’s persona, and select which artworks to interpret.

Bed On Water, an interdisciplinary art house that also specializes in graphic design, photography, and art, envisioned the artist’s harsh lines as soft dresses, sometimes with billowing folds. Lauded by the CFDA and Beyoncé alike, Hanifa made the artist’s timeless ‘Ideal’ logo look even newer, in a slinky yet sunny yellow bodysuit that melts into gentle tangles of thick yarn. The label Johnny Nelson contorted metal and stones into rings, echoing Basquiat’s crown motif.

Shanel Campbell from Bed On Water for the Those Who Dress Better program. Courtesy of “King Pleasure.”

What would the artist himself wear? Konigbagbe pointed to pieces by Keith Herron’s brand Advisry, including a mask, a layered and printed “King Pleasure” long-sleeve jersey, and printed jeans featuring Charles The First (1982), considering them “worthy of Jean-Michel’s own personal style.”

“The jersey is a nod to Jean-Michel’s famously worn Wesleyan lacrosse practice jersey from his 1981 Art/new york interview with Marc H. Miller,” Konigbagbe wrote.

A December 7 reception celebrated the designers’ one-week stint in “King Pleasure.” The entire exhibition will complete its run on January 1, 2023.

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