New Exhibit to Center Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Identity and Activism

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Apr 29, 2019

Jean-Michel Basquiat has been dead for more than 30 years, but his work is having a major resurgence. The Brant Foundation Art Study Center in New York City opened its space with a solo exhibition of his work, on view through May 15, 2019. And in August, Basquiat and Keith Haring will headline a world premiere exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Australia.

Sandwiched between Brant and NGV, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City will hold its own showing. Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story, is all about his activism and identity, and will be mounted from June 21 through November 6, 2019. After young Black artist Michael Stewart died at the hands of transit police in New York City on September 28, 1983, Basquiat responded with “Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart).” He painted it on the wall of Haring’s studio, never to be seen publicly or in galleries. That is until now, per an announcement from the museum.

The show will explore Basquiat’s formative career years via 20 paintings and works on paper. Viewers will learn how the artist, who once tagged under the moniker “SAMO,” saw Black identity, protested police brutality and attempted to create a language of empowerment.

Supplemented with works from other artists from his generation who also responded to Stewart’s death and the subsequent trial, the exhibition will include paintings and prints from Haring’s “Michael Stewart—U.S.A. for Africa” (1985); David Hammons’ series of stenciled prints titled “The Man Nobody Killed” from 1986; and Andy Warhol’s screen-printed “headline” paintings from the year Stewart died.