THE HAGUE – An exhibition that explores the early work of American visual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat before he became established aims to unveil a budding creative genius, the organizer of the exhibition in The Netherlands told EFE on Friday.
Basquiat, the author of “No Title” (1982) which fetched $110 million at auction in 2017, is the star of “Basquiat, The Artist and His New York Scene,” which showcases works from his early career arranged across three spaces curated chronologically, said Sandra Uijlenbroek, director of the project.
“Here we focus on the period before he reached fame. It’s wonderful to see the trademark of his style already evident in these early works,” Uijlenbroek said.
“He launched to fame very quickly,” she said. “That’s why this exhibition attempts to show who Jean-Michel really was before he became Basquiat. He would pick up garbage off the streets and take it home to then use it to create artworks.”
The first space of the exhibition titled “Apartment” starts in the East Village neighborhood in 1979 New York.
“He once placed a television inside a refrigerator and started taking photos. These images and the notes he made about his art are featured in the exhibition,” she added.
Basquiat (1960-1988) – already a prominent graffiti artist via his SAMO tag which poked fun at the art scene and the gentrification of run-down New York neighborhoods – moved into a derelict building with his friend, biologist Alexis Adler, at a time they were both facing financial hardship.
The then 19-year-old artist, son of a Haitian and Puerto Rican, could not even afford canvasses to paint on, so he started putting his stamp on walls, clothes, radiators and doors.
“Most people think of Basquiat as primarily a painter, but he also composed music and started his creative life as a graffiti street artist,” Uijlenbroek explained.
“It is a fragment of his history that has not received much attention before,” Uijlenbroek said.
Viewers leave the “Apartment” to enter the “Streets of New York” area where an incredible photographic series depicting works from the SAMO phase are exhibited.
Basquiat returned to SAMO two years after he first launched the project with his friend and fellow artist Al Diaz by painting the stairs of his residence revealing for the first time that he was behind the street-art under the well-known graffiti tag.
The third and final section of the exhibit, “The Times Square Show,” (1980) focuses on the moment Basquiat officially presented his work publicly.
The Show was the result of a collaboration of over 100 young artists who occupied an abandoned former massage parlor in Times Square to showcase a multimedia exhibition featuring video-art, painting, photography, music and evening events in the six-story eerie building.
The collaboration was groundbreaking, not least because there was a strong political undertone to many of the artworks, in that it married elements of high-art with popular culture and presented a transgressive spectacle open to the public 24 hours a day.
The exhibition shows how important language was in Basquiat’s early work with the artist even recognizing at one point that he would have much rather been a writer than a painter.
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands launched the show on Jan. 31 at the Schunck museum in the city of Heerlen, 23 kilometers (15 miles) east of Maastricht.
“Basquiat, The Artist and His New York Scene” will run until June 2.