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Take a personal look into the world and artistic process of Jean-Michel Basquiat this weekend at a new, in-depth exhibition of his life and works, commissioned and lovingly curated by his family.

Basquiat’s studio has been re-created at the exhibition. All Photos: Phil O’Brien

Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure (named after a 1987 painting by the artist and one of his father’s favorite songs) opens April 9 in a 15,000 square-foot space at the Starrett Lehigh Building at 601 W26th Street (entrance on 11th Ave and W27th St) and features over 200 never-before-seen and rarely featured works from the late, great Neo-expressionist artist. Basquiat’s family, who manages his estate, will feature paintings, drawings, artifacts, and even re-creations of the legendary Palladium nightclub (for which Basquiat created several paintings) and the artist’s Great Jones Street living space and studio — all culled from their personal collection. 

Said Lisane Basquiat, Jean-Michel’s sister, in a statement:  “This is a way for us to collaborate as a community and fill in the spaces from all of our perspectives on Jean-Michel and his impact on the world. It’s a gift to our family and others that they can look at this personal account of who he was. We wanted to bring his work and personality forward, in a way only we can, for people to immerse themselves in. We want this to be an experiential and multi-dimensional celebration of Jean-Michel’s life.”

Jailbirds by Basquiat is one of the many original pieces on show.

The exhibit was designed by Sir David Adjaye, a world-renowned Ghanaian-American architect known for his work on Washington DC’s National Museum of African American History & Culture with further work by Abbott Miller of design firm Pentagram. Miller is known for his work with the Guggenheim Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum.

Split into sections surrounding definitive eras of the artist’s life and work, King Pleasure begins with 1960 — Introduction, a series of self-portraits and a primer on his family and heritage. In Kings County, artifacts from his time spent in Puerto Rico as well as a re-creation of Basquiat’s childhood home in Brooklyn illustrate the defining elements of Basquiat’s early life, including early drawings, sketchbooks, sculptures, home movies, newsletters from his formative time at City-As-School, and interviews with family members. 

Basquiat’s famil members present this exhibition. Andy Warhol painted Gerard, Jeanine and Matilde in 1986.

World Famous covers Basquiat’s whirlwind journey to fame and features many of his paintings, while Ideal re-creates 1983 at the artist’s NoHo studio, including not only drawings, paintings, and sketches but also his furniture and belongings, down to his signature bicycle parked in front of the “apartment” and a TV inside playing the movies of the day. Art Gallery displays over 100 thematically arranged works by Basquiat, most of which are from his family’s personal collection and have never been seen before. There are also several paintings of the artist’s family by Basquiat contemporary Andy Warhol — only one of Basquiat’s many boldface-name friends and collaborators at the time, when he was frequently seen with Madonna, John Lurie, David Byrne,  and Debbie Harry (to whom he sold his first painting). 

Palladium highlight’s Basquiat’s work for the iconic New York nightclub (now an NYU dorm…). A re-creation of the VIP space at the club featuring 1985’s Nu-Nile and Untitled, as well as video and musical elements bring visitors back to the hey-day of New Wave. The exhibit concludes with Place Jean-Michel Basquiat, which displays his many posthumous awards and exhibitions as well as oral histories and remembrances from his close friends and family. 

Palladium ends the exhibition with a nightclub setting.

In addition to the exhibit, Rizzoli Electa will release the accompanying book, Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure©. The retrospective was authored by Jean-Michel’s sisters Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux and his stepmother Nora Fitzpatrick. 

Said sister Jeanine in a statement to Avenue Magazine: “There have been many exhibitions of Jean-Michel’s work, but never told from our perspective — Jean-Michel as a child, a man, a son, and a brother. We wanted to bring his work and personality forward, in a way only we can, for people to immerse themselves in. We want this to be an experiential and multidimensional celebration of Jean-Michel’s life.”

Basquiat’s paintings at the press preview this week.


Tickets are available at kingpleasure.basquiat.com for the show, Tickets are cheaper on Mondays through Thursdays than at weekends. Adults are $35 ($42 on weekends), $32 for seniors ($42 on weekends), students and military, $30 for children 2-13 ($40 on weekends) and there are VIP offers at $65 if you want to skip the line. 

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1 Comment

  1. As a Haitian I will be taking my seven grand children to see the exhibit during Easter week. It’s a bit more expensive than most. Do you have group rates??i am a senior citizen. it’s awesome to Haitian artists in a positive way. I will make it an event.

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