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Jean-Michel Basquiat's Family Honors His Life And Legacy With New Exhibit

Jean-Michel Basquiat's Family Honors His Life And Legacy With New Exhibit

There are hundreds of pieces of never before seen, recovered artwork!

The family of Jean-Michel Basquiat is keeping his legacy alive through a new exhibit entitled, “King Pleasure,” NBC News reports. 

It has been more than three decades since the passing of Jean-Michel Basquiat at the age of 27. Since then, his influence has grown infinitely, his ideology and artwork penetrating every sector of art from hip hop to fashion and beyond. Now the late artist's family is looking to give an even deeper look into the life of Basquiat, a more humanizing one, curating a new exhibit about his life entitled “Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure.”

“The theme is really Jean-Michel as a human being. Before he was an artist, he was a son. He was a brother. He was a nephew - and we’re trying to show that human side of Jean-Michel and where he came from, his childhood and our personal relationships with him,” said Jeanine Heriveaux, Basquiat’s sister. 

(l to r) Jeanine Heriveaux, Nora Fitzpatrick, Lisane Basquiat. Photo Courtesy of Miranda Penn Turin/NBC News

Heriveaux, along with her sister Lisane Basquiat and their stepmother Nora Fitzpatrick, have been working on the exhibit since 2017, putting it off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and social uprisings. They felt like now was as good a time as any to showcase Basquiat’s work, taking a deeper look into his life as a Brooklyn, New York native with Haitian and Puerto Rican ancestry and how that informed his art. 

Basquiat was first published in 1980 as a part of a group exhibition entitled “Times Square Show.” Many of his earlier pieces including “Gold Griot,” “Big Joy,” and “Hollywood Africans,” spoke to the experiences of Black people in America and how they are portrayed in society. His 1981 piece, “Red Kings,” was the first feature of the signature Basquiat crown that so many have grown to love today. Throughout his short career, Basquiat collaborated and drew inspiration from a number of notable artists including longtime friend Andy Warhol and artist Shenge Ka Pharaoh. 

“Charles the First,” 1982. Photo Courtesy of The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/Artestar, New York

The abstract painter is credited with bringing graffiti to the mainstream art world and utilized his art as a way to shine light on deeper social ills including racism and police brutality. His sister spoke specifically about the 1983 death of Michael Stewart, a Black man arrested for writing graffiti on a NY subway station wall who died at the hands of the police, and how that impacted her brother. 

“It shook him so much. He stated that he thought that could be him. Whatever thoughts that were occurring in his mind…he sketched about them. He painted about them,” said Heriveaux. 

Basquiat also used his work to empower Black people, his signature crown holding deep symbolism in the Black community, even today.

“I see a generation of people who are confronting challenges with the way that this world culture handles racism, classism - you know, social issues, and I think that those issues are disturbing to younger people, and Jean-Michel speaks to those…Jean-Michel was one of the very few people early on to claim a crown - to claim that he was royalty,” said Lisane Basquiat. 

“Untitled (Thor),” 1982. Photo Courtesy of The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/Artestar, New York

The new exhibit features 200 recovered paintings, drawings and other artwork from Basquiat. Spanning more than 15,000 square feet, “King Pleasure” includes re-creations of Basquiat’s NY studio, a nightclub, and his childhood home to create a more rounded lens of the artist through the eyes of those who knew him best. Entering the exhibit, visitors will be able to hear Basquiat reciting a chapter from the Book of Genesis about the creation of humanity. 

The family hopes the exhibit will pay honor to Basquiat and introduce him to a new generation of admirers, not only highlighting his resilience and determination, but also giving insight into someone who “had a dream and went for it.”

“Jean-Michel was an artist who gave you what he had, unfiltered and unedited, and so many of us filter and edit - and it holds us back from the ways that we can be fully real, that we can express ourselves. And so what I’d love for people to walk in understanding is that it’s possible to do that… to see what happens when you get out of your own way,” explained Lisane Basquiat. 

“Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure” is currently open in Manhattan’s Starrett-Lehigh building. You can purchase tickets here

Photo Courtesy of Brad Branson, 1984