Lovingly organized and curated by Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s surviving family and deriving its name from one of his paintings, Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure © is an exhibition of 200 never-before-seen and rarely shown paintings, drawings, multimedia presentations, ephemera and artifacts that ll the artist’s life story from an intimate perspective, weaving his artistic endeavors with his personal life, influences and the times, in which he lived.
Through those 200 pieces, Baquiat’s artistic contributions, which include his explorations of multifaceted cultural phenomena — including music, the Black experience, pop culture, Black sports figures, literature, movies and other sources — are showcased through immersive environments and meant to provide unique insight into the late artist’s creative life, and his singular voice.
As the surviving family writes in a statement seen early in the exhibition, the exhibition isn’t an academic study of Basquiat’s art. So you won’t read much about the techniques used in each piece, nor will you read about which visual artists he loved. But you’ll find out intimate, quirky and familial details about the man and the artist, from the pranks he played on his sisters, his obsession with Charlie “Yardbird” Parker and his family, his profound love of music, Basquiat’s Brooklyn and New York, and how starting with his father, the family has been extremely protective of Basquiat’s creative estate. There are loving re-creations of the family home in Brooklyn and Basquiat’s art-strewn studio, including a TV that shows scenes of The Breakfast Club and other 80s movies in loop. (You could tell, that everything was placed in the exact spots that someone remembered them.)They also have a recreation of the Palladium’s VIP room, which included two massive Basquiat murals.
Throughout you couldn’t help but notice a few things: Basquiat’s childhood was filled with a lot of love, and a deep and abiding love for music and film. From the videos, the sisters loved their older brother immensely — and were at times perhaps, awed by him.
Was it revealing? Yes. I found out some intimate details about the man and his family that I wouldn’t have ordinarily known. But at the end of the day, the real star of the show is the artwork, which is simultaneously childlike, menacing, mischievous and incisive.