Basquiat: "Boom For Real" | Barbican

Curator Tour


Entering the Exhibition you are greeted by a large screen with Basquiat dancing along in his studio to Duke Ellington “ Riding on a Blue note “ This show is a celebration of the artist and has work, and the video at the beginning marks this nicely. from watching this you instantly feel a rapor towards Basquiat. There is something about seeing someone dancing that makes you smile, it is as if they are giving themselves to you.

I previously saw a show on Basquait show in Rome, but other than this I have not had the chance to see his work. There is a reason for this, and that is because there is no access to his work in the Uk, with most of his work being privately owned. This is the first show since 1996 , and I feel very lucky to take part in a Curatorial tour of the exhibition.

We are taken to the beginnings of his career to a reconstruction  of an exhibition he took part in “New York , New Wave” You can see from his early work that he has a need to reference his influences. To claim his practise as an artist , and his  interests in art history . It is explained to us that Basquiat was Obsessed with So many things that he surrounded himself with. An obvious one through his work is Jazz. I did not know however that the bible was one of them. It is shown to us his references  to the Bible to his use of A and 0 written repeatedly on the paintings, this meaning Alpha and Omega , the beginning and the end of the world. The A and the O also gives reference to the side name Arron that basquait refers himself to. His reference to Religious text is also referenced in the painting “JawBone Of An Ass”  which is text taken from the bible.

It is this creation of fictional characters ,of sydonyms he creates like “Samo  (Copyright) that particularly interest me. I feel a connection with the artist through his use of creating his own character, his own meanings and identity through painting. He says that most of his works are in fact self portraits . This sent shooting stars to my mind, as in “Same Same But Differnt "  I  had been struggling to represent my existence, and my place within it. It made me think about the side name “Chinatree”  and how I can play with this alter ego.

This thought of artists dwelling in the present, and seeing how Basquiat uses found materials to work upon  , had me evaluating why I choose to work on fond object, and things and fabrics that have already had a past.  It is because these items are often from the streets that surround us , they are within context.

His Art History references, as well as his fascination with Jazz and young Black men who’s achievements are overlooked are so apparent within his work, whilst at the same time being so personal to him. He is an inspiring example of how to create Works that reflect oneself as your environment, interests and thought processes.

It was super interesting to have a member of the curation team, give us a tour of the exhibition, and think it would be great if this could be done more for major exhibitions. The Curators learn so much about the artist, and  go to great lengths to get the information right. Having them share what they have learnt from the artist, peers, and the works only adds value to the show.