London to Get First Major Jean-Michel Basquiat Exhibition in Over 20 Years

It will be his first posthumous survey in the country, and his first UK outing since 1984.

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Courtesy Sotheby's.

London’s Barbican Centre will present a landmark exhibition next year, titled “Boom for Real,” in what will be the first ever large-scale show of legendary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat to be staged in the UK.

Despite the painter’s success (both historically and within the art market), there has not been an institutional exhibition of Basquiat’s work in the UK in over 20 years (the last being in 1984 at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery), and there is not a single work by Basquiat in a UK public collection.

Related: $6 Million Basquiat Leads Korean Pop Star T.O.P.’s Curated Sotheby’s Sale

“Boom for Real” will also mark the first time that Basquiat has been recognized with a show in the country since his untimely death from an overdose in 1988.

“If you are under the age of forty, you are highly unlikely to have laid adult eyes on one of his works here,” the show’s curator, Eleanor Nairne, astutely noted in an email conversation with artnet News. “So an exhibition of his work could not be more urgent.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat, <i>Hollywood Africans</i> (1983). Courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hollywood Africans (1983). Courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris.

“Boom for Real” is a phrase taken from Basquiat’s lexicon, used, according to The Guardian, when he particularly loved something. The exhibition promises to highlight not only his achievement in painting—for which he is best known—but also his work in collage, Xerox, performance, graffiti, and music. Over 100 pieces will be on view.

In addition to this, co-curators Nairne and Dieter Buchhart will reconstruct the first show of which Basquiat was a part, which took the form of a group exhibition at the now-defunct Manhattan commercial gallery PS1 in 1981. So far, seventeen of the works included have been secured; five are still missing, The Guardian reports.

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Pegasus (1987). Courtesy wikiart.

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Pegasus (1987). Courtesy wikiart.

“I have learned an enormous amount about Basquiat—and his universe of interests—in the course of making this exhibition,” Nairne told artnet News. “It’s hard to know where to begin.” She cites the painting Pegasus (1987) as an example of the wealth of knowledge from which Basquiat worked, and the intricacies behind each painting.

“Take a word like ‘Andromeda,'” she further explained in reference to Pegasus. “Andromeda is a spiral galaxy, but she was also the princess in Greek mythology who is saved from death by Perseus, who flies in on Pegasus, which links back to the title of the painting. And that is to look at one word in one painting!”

Since his death in 1988, Basquiat’s work has seen significant success within the contemporary art market; in 2015, Malaysian collector Jho Low was revealed as the buyer of the 1982 work Dustheads, purchased for a cool $48.8 million. (Low sold the work in April of this year to Connecticut hedge fund manager Daniel Sundheim for $35 million, a steep 28 percent drop, due to his dire financial situation).

Yet, as Nairne pointed out, “Basquiat commanded considerable prices for his work during his lifetime too—gallerists including Annina Nosei, Mary Boone, and Larry Gagosian recognized his brilliance from a very young age.”

“It is almost unfathomable the amount of information that Basquiat managed to process from books, records, liner notes, films, television, exhibitions, people…” Nairne continued. “I am glad that this exhibition will provide visitors with an opportunity to see such an extraordinary group of works in one place.”

“Basquiat: Boom for Real” will be on view at The Barbican from September 21, 2017 – January 28, 2018.

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