Arts + Culture
Jean-Michel Basquiat. ®Edo Bertoglio, courtesy of Maripol Artwork. ©The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

This Art Exhibit Gives Jean-Michel Basquiat His Due Credit As an Artistic Genius

"Boom For Real" at London's Barbican Art Gallery is the first substantial overview of Basquiat's career.

Basquiat dancing to Duke Ellington. Basquiat reading from the book of Genesis. Basquiat starring in a movie. Basquiat cozied up with Andy Warhol.

These and more Basquiats are on show at "Boom For Real" at the Barbican Art Gallery in London, the first substantial survey of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose 1982 painting, "Untitled," became the most expensive work by an American painter at auction when it sold for £100 million at Sotheby's in May last year. The work is the subject of its own solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum until March 2018, while "Boom For Real" will transfer from England to Schirn Kunsthalle gallery in Germany, where it will be on shown from February up until May.

"Boom For Real" is a most exhilarating show which works as an exhaustive overview of one man's life and also as an instructive account of unrivalled artistic genius.


Untitled, 1982. Jean-Michel Basquiat. Courtesy Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. ©The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo: Studio Tromp, Rotterdam.

Whether as playful attempt at self-importance or as calculated myth-making, Basquiat in 1981 got a friend to authenticate his notebooks by writing in it that "the book is absolutely and uniquely the product of Jean-Michel's hand," a month before his first solo exhibition in the US at the Annina Nosei Gallery. Selected pages from notebooks have been framed in glass and hung like works of equal importance as the paintings, and typically features self-composed maxims—"VICTIMS OF EMBELLISHED HISTORY;" "I FEEL LIKE A CITIZEN ITS TIME TO GO AND COME BACK A DRIFTER," wry observations, short-short stories and a list of admired cultural figures. There are also excerpts from Genesis, as well as a recording of Basquiat reading from it, in continuous play, and whose voice lends his jottings authority, ambience and poetic energy that is strongly reminiscent of Frank Ocean's own spoken word performance on "Seigfried" from his album "Blonde."

Heavily panned by the press and viewing public, the 1985 joint exhibition by Basquiat and Warhol was a commercial flop as not a single painting by the superstar pairing was sold. Three decades on and removed from the hostile anticipation and reactions of the time, the collection of 150 works made within a year of intensive productivity, are every bit as vital as other praised works. Extracts from a TV interview of the two in which both seemed genuinely chummy are on display for visitors to watch, as are a selection of works, most recognizable of which is"Arm and Hammer II," a retooling of the once popular American baking soda brand, made into a double-portrait charged with powerful symbolism which could take on different meanings—most inviting of which is as an affirmation of black genius in the portrait of Charlie Parker and the recognition of valorized white labour in the muscly arm fisting a hammer.

'Beat Bop' vinyl record, 1983. Rammellzee vs. K-Rob, produced and with cover artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Courtesy Jennifer Von Holstein. ©The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo: Justin Piperger

Basquiat's obsession with bebop and adoration of its proponents from Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and most fervently Charlie Parker make for some of his most zestful works, but also function as epigenetic records of black heritage as in "Bird On Money" (1981), "Untitled (Charlie Parker)" (1983), "Plastic Sax" (1984), "King Zulu" (1986) and "King Of The Zulus" (1984-85), a work of cluttered sophistication in which a painted image of Charlie Parker is nestled between pages of notebooks containing drawings and jottings that were pasted onto the canvas, bridging the work along sculpture and painting. What a loss it is to never see what manner of sophistication he would have develop if he'd lived into his 30s, 40s, 50s as it has in the works of Ernest Duku, the Ivorian artist whose "sculpted-paintings" are superbly complex renderings of African ideographic heritages.

Jay Z's casual brag of having a "yellow Basquiat in the kitchen corner" on 2013's "Picasso Baby" speaks to his and the monied rapper's taste for expensive art, but Basquiat's stature as a very early adopter of hip hop receives less recognition, oddly even from rappers who readily idolize and namecheck their forebears. Fab Five Freddy is known to have introduced the young painter, in the 70s, to the cutting and scratching techniques that are integral to the formulation of what became known as hip hop. In 1983, Basquiat would co-produce the still impressive "Beat Bop" with Rammellzee, who rapped along with K-Rod on the 10 minute track. Copies of the vinyl record and slipcover are displayed, their black surfaces carrying white designs by Basquiat which include his signature crown motif.

King Zulu, 1986. Jean-Michel Basquiat. Courtesy Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona.© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo: Gasull Fotografia.

"I know so little about my career, to tell you the truth" said Basquiat in a 1985 interview. "I don't know who has what or anything like that really, or even what they paid for it most of the time."

"Basquiat: Boom For Real" is so far the most comprehensive assembly of his art but also his life and 27 years on earth, during which he reportedly made 1,000 drawings and 1,000 paintings of varying historical importance and graphic intensity—a set of achievements yet equalled by any artist, living or dead.

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Photo courtesy of 1-54/SUTTON.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Landing in Marrakech is 2018's Most Anticipated Art Event

The leading art fair dedicated to contemporary African art makes its mark on the continent for the first time this weekend.

This weekend, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading art fair devoted to contemporary African art, will debut in Marrakech, Morocco. The announcement of the Fair's expansion to the continent last year has left aficionados of contemporary African art in eager anticipation of this "homecoming"—this author included.

1-54 debuted in London in 2013. Although an expansion to New York followed, a presence on the continent was always part of the long-term vision of the founder Touria El Glaoui. Finally, the time has now arrived.

Here are five reasons why we're looking forward to 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Marrakech.

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This Olympic Figure Skater Blew Us Away Again By Pulling Off a Costume Change Mid-Routine

First Maé-Bérénice Méité performed to Beyoncé, now she's effortlessly slaying outfit changes mid-routine. What can't she do?

French-Congolese and Ivorian figure skater, Maé-Bérénice Méité, has pretty much been the life of the Winter Olympic figure skating competition.

Earlier this month, the athlete had the internet shook when she performed her opening routine to two Beyoncé songs. Now she's back with even more black girl magic.

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Video still via YouTube.

10 Stand Out Moments From Janelle Monáe's Powerful Music Videos

Janelle Monae came back making a statement—and we're just as obsessed as you are.

We've got to talk about Janelle Monáe.

Over the past half decade, she's embarked on a profound journey that's solidified her as an artist, creator and activist who isn't afraid to shoot down the stars—or shoot with them.

After having roles in Hidden Figures and Moonlight—two Oscar nominated movies where one won an Oscar, a stellar speech at the Grammy's and a stunning presence at the Black Panther red carpet, she's ready to grace us with "Dirty Computer," the latest musical venture in her Afrofuturistic saga.

To whet our appetites before the album, which is set to release on April 27, Janelle dropped not one but two music videos yesterday. Both are distinctly entertaining: one is a black, intersectional feminist anthem and the other a psychedelic soundtrack of sexual fluidity.

Watch both, then read some of the highlights we gathered from the hypnotizing visuals and powerful wordplay.

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