See this Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition for free

The legendary artist’s New York retrospective can be viewed in full online right now.

by Douglas Greenwood
22 July 2020, 11:07am

Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled (Tenant), 1982

Having the freedom to explore the world around us without contracting a virus that is still very much present and killing people is, as Natasha Bedingfield once professed, “so close you can almost taste it”. We’re in the process of creeping back out into the world again, and of all the things that we’ve been starved of throughout lockdown, good art is probably the thing we’re craving most.

But while many exhibitions we were looking forward to have been postponed, put on pause, or cancelled, the influx in digital gallery viewings has also opened doors to exhibitions past. Last spring, The Brant Foundation in New York’s East Village held a two month-long display of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work in the place it was hugely inspired by and often created in. Now, a virtual viewing of that same event is available to browse online.

Curated by Dr. Dieter Buchhart and set-up in collaboration with Fondation Louis Vuitton, the exhibition featured dozens of Basquiat’s most famous and recognisable works, including Grillo (1984), Price of Gasoline in the Third World (1982) and his numerous self-portraits painted in the early 1980s.

“Basquiat’s complex oeuvre has established him as one of the most important innovators in modern art, even thirty years after his death,” The Brant Foundation wrote in the original show’s notes. “Numerous recent retrospectives have spotlighted his radical approach, illuminating his interdisciplinary contributions to music, poetry, performance, and art and cementing him as one of the most forward-thinking artists of his generation, whose complex engagement with social and political questions makes him more relevant than ever.”

The opening show at the new private New York art space, owned by newspaper tycoon Peter M. Brant, was one of the few that allowed people to see Basquiat’s masterpieces for free. But as the New York Times art critic Martha Schwendener put it: “We are all paying, in a variety of ways, to live in a system that supports colossal disparities of wealth. Museum admission might be free, but health care isn’t.”

It’s interesting then that Basquiat’s work is presented in this setting. His career, like many Black artists, was built through great emotional turmoil put to canvas, that was then funded by white art collectors who now, decades after his death, are putting them on show. It’s something this display of Basquiat’s work doesn’t confront head on, but in a time when access to art is so limited, being able to see his canvases hung on walls, even through a screen, feels powerful.

You can visit the Brant Foundation’s virtual display of Basquiat’s work here .

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