Before He Was a Famous Artist, Basquiat’s Apartment Was His Gallery. See the Charming, Candid Photos

Show of the Day: “Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980” at the Cranbrook Art Museum.

Alexis Adler, Basquiat practicing clarinet in the bathroom of the apartment(c. 1980). courtesy of MCA Denver.
Alexis Adler, Basquiat practicing clarinet in the bathroom of the apartment (ca. 1980). courtesy of MCA Denver.

JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

“Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980”
Cranbrook Art Museum, Michigan

What the Museum Says: “The exhibition includes the entire cache of works made by Jean-Michel Basquiat during the year he lived with his friend Alexis Adler in a small apartment in the East Village. This archival material provides rare insight into the artistic life of Basquiat before he was recognized as a prominent painter in the early 1980s. While living in this apartment, Basquiat’s creative impulses moved fluidly from his SAMO tags on the surrounding streets and neighborhood into a more sustained practice in their shared home.”

Why It’s Worth a Look: At this point, the mythology surrounding Basquiat’s life and rapid rise to art world fame is inseparably entangled with our understanding of his art. “Basquiat Before Basquiat” is the closest we’re likely to get to the man behind the lore, even if the traveling exhibition is slightly complicit in the mythologizing itself. A trove of incredible photos by Adler gives a poignant picture of the person he was just before his career took off: young, silly, poor, rambunctious, and completely charged with creative energy.

What It Looks Like: 

Alexis Adler, Basquiat in the apartment (1980).

Alexis Adler, <i>Basquiat in apt</i> (1980). Courtesy of MCA Denver.

Alexis Adler, Basquiat in the apartment (1980).

Alexis Adler, Basquiat performing in the apartment (c. 1979–1980).

Alexis Adler, Basquiat performing in the apartment (ca. 1979–1980).

Alexis Adler, The apartment (c. 1979-1980).

Alexis Adler, Refrigerator in the apartment (c. 1979-1980).

Alexis Adler, Painted television in the apartment (ca. 1979–1980).

Alexis Adler, Basquiat in the apartment (c. 1979–1980).

Alexis Adler, <em>Basquiat performing in the apartment</em> (ca. 1980). Courtesy of MCA Denver.

Alexis Adler, Basquiat performing in the apartment (ca. 1980).

Alexis Adler, Basquiat performing in the apartment (ca. 1979–1980).

Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980” is on view through March 11, 2018. The Cranbrook Art Museum is located at 39221 Woodward Ave, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.


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