In a time where getting a cultural fix is not super high on the priority list, we have found ourselves missing it nevertheless. As we in Australia gingerly attempt and fail (sorry Melbourne) to ease back into 'normal' life, the prospect of visiting an art gallery is a happy - yet far away one. Galleries are technically open, but limiting the amount of leisure time you spend indoors with strangers is advised, so we'll continue to hold off for now.
Thankfully in the meantime, New York's East Village gallery space, The Brant Foundation, has created a virtual viewing function for their Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition held at the gallery IRL this time last year.
The exhibition was curated by Dr. Dieter Buchhart and featured many of Basquiat’s most notable and coveted pieces. Spanning the artist’s entire oeuvre, the exhibition champions Basquiat's short career and his subject matter - a melting pot of politics, influence, class issues and of course, his heroes. The exhibition additionally featured Basquiat's most celebrated large-scale canvases including two of his most well-known head paintings, both Untitled from 1981 and 1982, and the monumental multi-paneled Grillo (1984).
In the initial exhibition notes, Buchhart described his work as “inimitable line … one that is ready to fight, razor sharp, injured and injuring at the same time; it becomes an existential line between powerlessness and self-empowerment, between human existence and the urgently pressing forces of everyday and institutionalised racism, repression, violence, and death.” While Brant commented “Basquiat’s complex oeuvre has established him as one of the most important innovators in modern art, even thirty years after his death,” he says.
“Numerous recent retrospectives have spotlighted his radical approach, illuminating his interdisciplinary contributions to music, poetry, performance, and art and cementing him as one of the most forward-thinking artists of his generation, whose complex engagement with social and political questions makes him more relevant than ever.”
A year on and the sentiment still rings eerily true, as one of the most prolific artists of his time, his works permeate time and place as an enduring commentary on our modern society and the structures of oppression that have been systemically in place since before Basquiat's time, and remain in the present.
The Brant Foundation’s virtual display of Basquiat’s work is available to view here.