Jean-Michel Basquiat at Brant Foundation: ‘Every Single Line Means Something’

Late artist returns to East Village for largest exhibit of his work since 2003

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump, 1982, acrylic, crayon, spray paint, canvas, 240 x 420.5 cm (image courtesy of WikiArt).

The solo exhibit, which spans four floors and features nearly seventy of the artist’s works, celebrates the inauguration of The Brant Foundation‘s branch in New York. The retrospective features some of Basquiat’s major works, including his 1982 “Untitled”, which sold for over $110 million at Sotheby’s in 2017 (setting, at the time, an auction record for American artists). Starting on the top floor, visitors make their way through the sunlit space, as floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views of the neighborhood the artist helped define.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1982 (image courtesy WikiArts)

WHAT: Jean-Michel Basquiat
WHERE: The Brant Foundation, 421 East 6th Street, NYC
WHEN: March 6-May 15, 2019


Although short-lived due to his untimely death at 27, Basquiat’s career has had a profound impact on both the art world and popular culture, and the icon’s legacy lives on through his unique masterpieces. He expresses social commentaries through his work, specifically drawing on the prevalent themes of colonialism and racism in society. The collection on display features powerful and poignant pieces, in which Basquiat paints his views on white supremacy and the power, violence, and injustice it has historically wielded over people of color.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Irony of the Negro Policeman, 1981, acrylic, crayon, canvas, 183 x 122 cm (image courtesy of WikiArt).

Much of Basquiat’s work explores the dichotomies he grew up experiencing, and the collection features a clear nod to the influences the artist’s family had on him. One of the most striking aspects of his work is his fascination with the human body and the lasting impression the copy of Gray’s Anatomy that his mother gave him had on his creations. Basquiat’s Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage further adds to the multidimensional diaspora he explores, with works such as “Arroz con pollo,” which features the juxtaposed image of violence and romance, with a roasted chicken mediating the space between black and white.

The exhibition will run through May 15, and while tickets are free, they are only available by signing up to the waitlist.

Tania Nicolaou

Tania Nicolaou is a PhD student and teaches English in New York City.

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