The exhibition features approximately 100 key works organized around the themes that inspired Jean-Michel Basquiat in the course of his intense career, cut short by his untimely death at age 27. Though Basquiat soon left the conceptual graffiti of his early days behind to exhibit in art galleries, his paintings use the language and symbols of the street, creating images that honor black men as kings and saints.
As an artist, he immersed himself in high art and graffiti, jazz and rap, punk and pop culture, anatomy textbooks and comics, and then channeled this complexity into sophisticated, layered works that presaged today’s internet culture.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time, an unprecedented exhibition in Europe that includes roughly 100 large-scale paintings and drawings from public and private collections across the United States and Europe. This show, organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, is the first thematic examination of Basquiat’s output and has been made possible by the generous sponsorship of Iberdrola.
Already famous at the age of 20 for his groundbreaking drawings and paintings, Jean-Michel Basquiat (b. 1960–d. 1988) took the New York art world by storm in the early 1980s. He gained international recognition by creating powerful and expressive works that confronted issues of racism, politics, and social hypocrisy. Although his career was cut short, his works remain hugely influential.
Described by the artist himself as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual,” Basquiat’s vivid and poignant work regularly referenced street art, given his beginnings in conceptual graffiti and his use of salvaged materials such as abandoned doors and packing crates as canvases.