Latin American Herald Tribune
Venezuela Overview
Venezuelan Embassies & Consulates Around The World
Sites/Blogs about Venezuela
Venezuelan Newspapers
Facts about Venezuela
Venezuela Tourism
Embassies in Caracas

Colombia Overview
Colombian Embassies & Consulates Around the World
Government Links
Embassies in Bogota
Sites/Blogs about Colombia
Educational Institutions


Crude Oil
US Gasoline Prices
Natural Gas

UK Pound
Australia Dollar
Canada Dollar
Brazil Real
Mexico Peso
India Rupee

Antigua & Barbuda
Cayman Islands

Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Costa Rica
El Salvador



What's New at LAHT?
Follow Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter
Most Viewed on the Web
Popular on Twitter
Receive Our Daily Headlines

  HOME | Arts & Entertainment

Guggenheim Examines Impact of Racial Injustice on Basquiat’s Work

NEW YORK – Jean-Michel Basquiat’s unfiltered take on the 1983 death in police custody of African American graffiti artist Michael Stewart is the keystone of a new exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

Basquiat (1960-1988) painted The Death of Michael Stewart – also known as Defacement – on a wall of the studio of his friend and fellow artist Keith Haring.

Thirty-six years later, a piece never meant to be publicly shown, much less offered for sale, will go on display Friday in the exhibit Basquiat’s Defacement: The Untold Story, which includes newspaper clippings about Stewart’s death and related works by other artists.

Stewart, 25, who danced in a Madonna music video, was detained by New York City Transit Police at 2:50 am on Sept. 15, 1983, after allegedly spraying graffiti on a wall inside a subway station.

By the time police brought him to Bellevue Hospital at 3:22 am for “psychiatric observation,” Stewart was comatose. He died 13 days later.

The event traumatized many people in the New York art and cultural community, including Haring, Andy Warhol and George Condo, but held a special significance for Basquiat as the then-23-year-old son of a Haitian immigrant.

“I think when you look at his works that deal with black tragedy and you look at this (Defaced), they are very different. We’ll never know how it was created but he was in Keith Haring’s studio and they were having a really heartfelt conversation and I think the honesty came out in the wall,” the exhibition’s curator, Chaedria LaBouvier, told EFE.

Basquiat painted a dark figure being attacked by two cops. Above the scene, he scrawled the word “defacement,” the common law enforcement term for graffiti, amid question marks.

“It really challenges the idea that Michael Stewart was a graffiti artist. He knew all of these artists, people who were not painters, he was in Madonna’s video,” LaBouvier said. “I think he thought of himself as an artist, might think that the community considered him as an artist and we really need to think of him as an artist instead of this person that this happened to.”

She pointed to a fundamental contrast between The Death of Michael Stewart and other works by Basquiat.

“It’s by what’s not in the work. You look at the other paintings like Tuxedo, which is this monument to majesty and achievement and, you know, it’s a great time in his life, it’s devoid of that,” the curator said.

“If you look at Charles The First or CPKR, which are investigations into Charlie Parker and the tragedy of that, but there are also this ennobling aspects, like he is aligning Charlie Parker with Superman and Thor ... Charles the First, the English monarch,” she said.

“This is devoid of those signifiers of majesty of nobility and it’s really him just approaching the work or the wall without a filter, because I think he knew it was a safe space in that he wasn’t going to be, it wasn’t going to be seen, whereas these works I think he knew that they would go out into the world,” LaBouvier said.

Along with works by Basquiat, the event includes pieces by the likes of Warhol (1928-1987) and Haring (1958-1990) that the Guggenheim describes as “testaments to the solidarity experienced among artists at the time.”

Defacement, LaBouvier said, was the most personal painting left by Basquiat, who died at 27 of a drug overdose, as none of his other works deals with an event that affected him so directly.


Enter your email address to subscribe to free headlines (and great cartoons so every email has a happy ending!) from the Latin American Herald Tribune:


Copyright Latin American Herald Tribune - 2005-2020 © All rights reserved