EPIC SHOW: JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT AT GAGOSIAN GALLERY NYC

February 22, 2013  |  art, Graffiti, NYC, Openings, Street Art

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Opening to a virtual madhouse of activity (and a sea of gallery security guards), the incredible retrospective of legendary renegade art icon Jean-Michel Basquiat at Gagosian Gallery has indeed proven worthy of all its ubiquitous pre-show hype. Short of the Brooklyn Museum's exhaustive exhibition in 2005, the show is easily the most thrilling collection of pinnacle major Basquiat works on view in years and should be considered essential viewing by anyone in NYC or with the means to get there before the show winds down on April 6th.

Populated with moving, large-scale works, the paintings are possessed of a notable energy that can be attributed to the artist's claim that his art was "about 80% anger," a fact not lost on the NY Times in their great writeup of the show this week:

He started painting around 1980 and suddenly achieved rock-star status at a time when the art market was booming as never before. Dealers and collectors showered him with more money than he knew what to do with, enabling him to indulge his ultimately fatal appetite for addictive drugs.

Five years before he died Basquiat described his plight with eerie prescience in “Obnoxious Liberals.” The left half of that picture illustrates the penultimate moment in the story of Samson: A black man shorn of his dreadlocks pushes out with muscular, manacled arms against classical white columns to either side. In the center a shouting man in a black top hat and priestly collar holds aloft a fist full of arrows — the critic, no doubt. To the right a squat figure in a big cowboy hat and polka-dot boxers with a face painted gold is probably a collector. But all three figures also can be said to personify aspects of the artist himself: his often irreconcilably conflicting desires for freedom, honor and material rewards.

In the end Basquiat was unable to escape or transcend the gilded trap of his own success. He didn’t have time to grow up. He died, the system lived on, and his art still feeds the beast. Last year one of his paintings sold at auction for $16.3 million.

Read the full NYTimes article here
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