Basquiat UK Retrospective Exhibition Arrives In 2017 At The Barbican

Setting and breaking auction records with his work, Basquiat’s untitled 1982 painting, completed when he was only 22 years old, set a new record this year at Christies selling for $57.3 million. Avidly collected by Jay-Z, Basquiat’s art works are coveted amongst the worlds biggest art collectors.

The Brooklyn born artists emergence, from a graffiti artist as one half of the SAMO© graffiti collective alongside friend Al Diaz, to a world-acclaimed artist, created a frenzy in the art world, enthralled by this young prodigy of the downtown New York art scene.

Basquiat: Boom for Real is the first large-scale exhibition in the UK of the work of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960—1988). Bringing together a 100 works, Basquiat: Boom for Real is curated by Dr Dieter Buchhart and Eleanor Nairne, Curator, Barbican Art Gallery and organised in collaboration with the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt.

Drawing from international museums and private collections, Basquiat: Boom for Real brings together an outstanding selection, many never before seen in the UK, including a partial reconstruction of the first body of work that Basquiat exhibited, made for Diego Cortez’s watershed group show New York / New Wave at PS1 in 1981.

Basquiat, a famously self-taught artist, sampled from an extraordinary breadth of source material, from anatomical drawings to bebop jazz. This is the first exhibition to focus on the artist’s relationship and inspiration from music, text, film and television, to the politics and Basquiat’s interest in African ideologies and the concerns of artists within the African diaspora.

Coming to attention in 1978 through the enigmatic statements sprayed across the city walls, Basquiats work as a street artists are documented online and in books – 20th Century & the Rise of Graffiti and Street Art and Music: Who Likes What?


In 1981, Braithwaite and Futura organised an exhibition at the Mudd Club, “Beyond Words: Graffiti Based-Rooted-Inspired Works.” The show included the work of Basquiat (as SAMO), Tseng Kwong Chi, Daze, Dondi, Keily Jenkins, Phase II, Iggy Pop, Quick, Rammellzee, and Zephyr. Soon after Basquiat made his first trip to Europe, for his first solo exhibition under the name SAMO.

Rapidly rising in the ranks of the art world at the same time that rap, graffiti, and breakin’ were starting to come alive in the South Bronx, while the foundations of hip-hop culture were being laid, Basquiat was making his transition from street artist to painting on T-shirts, making postcards, drawings, and collages, eventually to emerge as a painter.

Basquiat’s work was charged, enigmatic and heavily laden with cultural and political commentary, while he observed, “there’s not enough black people downtown in this … whatever it is, pseudo art bullshit”.

Influenced heavily by his admiration for musicians, singers, and boxers like Joplin, Hendrix, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Joe Louis, Basquiat references them in various paintings. Yet he’s also seen as an artist who personifies the spirit of Hip-Hop culture, ironically his cameo in Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ video, came about as a fill in for Grandmaster Flash when he failed to appear for the video shoot.

As a young black artists Basquiat’s paintings and drawings encouraged the recognition of graffiti art within the art world, as the Lower East Side arts scene graduated from exhibitions in clubs to small storefront alternative gallery spaces becoming accepted by the larger art community of New York.

Tragically in 1988, Basquiat died at the age of 27 from a heroin overdose, becoming canonised as a pop cultural icon for generations to come, Boom for Real will be the first time a retrospective in the UK will give visitors a first hand look at Basquiat’s work and his cultural significance both artistically and politically.

Tickets for Boom for Real go on sale to Barbican members from today, a year ahead of what promises to be one of the most seminal exhibitions in the UK for this century so far – 21 September 2017 – 28 January 2018.