Jean Michel Basquiat as Social Activist

I am a big admirer of the work of the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. I first encountered his work back in 2004 at the Jan Krugier Gallery in Geneva and I was particularly struck by one particular piece at the exhibition titled ‘El Gran Espectaculo’ (History of Black People), 1983.

I am now looking forward to attending a new exhibition at the Solomon R Guggenheim museum in New York – Defacement : The Untold Story – that focuses on Basquiat’s activism and the role of cultural activism in New York in the early 1980s during a period of racial tension.

The title of the exhibition – Defacement – is based on a work painted by Basquiat to commemorate the death of the young black artist Michael Stewart who died from injuries that he sustained while in police custody in New York after being arrested for tagging a New York subway station. Basquiat’s painting depicting the assault on Stewart was a lament and his creative response to anti-black racism and police brutality.

The exhibition of works runs from 21 June – 6 November 2019 in New York.

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