Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story opens at Guggenheim




Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart), 1983, NYC

Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story is one of several exhibitions in New York City of late, focusing on the artists work, with this exhibit veering stunningly close to our current political climate, as Basquiat painted a bitterly similar story of race and relations between police and community. The Guggenheim chose to explore Basquiat’s role of cultural activism in the early 1980s, beginning with his painting, ‘The Death of Michael Stewart (1983), informally known as Defacement.

Jean-Michel Basquiat ‘Irony of a Negro Policeman, 1981; Acrylic and oil stick on wood panel, AMA Collection + ‘La Hara’ 1981, Acrylic and oil stick on wood panel; Arora Collection

The images above and below are just a few of the “approximately twenty paintings and works on paper examining Basquiat’s exploration of black identity, his protest against police brutality, and his attempts to craft a singular, aesthetic language of empowerment.”

Entrance to ‘Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story’

Also on view, ephemera related to the death of Michael Stewart including newspaper clippings, protest posters and samples of artwork from Stewart’s estate. Paintings and display cases commemorate the death of Stewart at the hands of New York City’s transit police after allegedly tagging a wall in an East Village subway station.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Back of the Neck’, 1983. Screenprint with hand-coloring on paper, Edition 1/24. Brooklyn Museum, Charles Stewart Smith Memorial Fund.

Included in this exhibit are paintings and prints made by other artists in response to Stewart’s death including Keith Karing’s Michael Stewart-U.S.A. for Africa (1985), and Andy Warhol’s screen printed ‘headline’ paintings from 1983, ‘The Man Nobody Killed,’ 1986, among others.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Untitled (Sheriff) 1981; Acrylic and oil stick on canvas, Carl Hirschmann Collection

Access to the exhibition room is limited to a specific number of people at a time ~ no packed crowds three-deep in front of paintings. Plenty of room to view the work in a leisurely way, and there didn’t appear to be a time limit imposed on viewers, who were of all ages, locals and visitors.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Tuxedo’ 1982-83; Screenprint on canvas, Edition of 10; Van de Weigh, New York.

We were there on the first day of the exhibition, Basquiat’s Defacement ~ The Untold Story, June 21, 2019. As we left the exhibition room, walking down the circular space, we glanced up to see a short line waiting to get in.. When we arrived, half-hour earlier, the wait to get in was less than five minutes.

Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: the Untold Story

Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story was organized by Chaédria LaBouvier, Guest Curator. Funding has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Keith Haring Foundation. The exhibition will be on view to November 6, 2019 at The Guggenheim, 1071 Fifth Avenue, between 88th/89th Streets, NYC

Basquiat is in a side room off the top floor.

The related event, Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story in Cinema is presented in conjunction with the exhibition, with a screening in the New Media Theater, Level B, on July 9th at 6pm. The screening is free with same-day museum admission. However capacity is limited.

Basquiat’s Defacement – The Untold Story now on view at Guggenheim

Read about Japanese billionaire collector, Yusaku Maezawa’s $110.5 million acquisition entitled ‘One Basquiat’ which was on view at the Brooklyn Museum.

Take a look inside Basquiat’s studio, owned by Andy Warhol, located at 57 Great Jones Street.

While you’re at The Guggenheim, don’t miss Simone Leigh: Loophole of Retreat on view to October 27, 2019 + Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now + the beautiful Artistic License on view on every level of the spiral exhibition space to January 12, 2020.