2 Feb 2019 - 2 Jun 2019
In the spring of 2019 SCHUNCK fell under the spell of Basquiat. With more than 300 works, this exhibition chronicled how the young, unknown Basquiat became an artist of world renown in the vibrant New York art scene of the early 1980s. The exhibition Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street 1979-1980, put together by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, told this story.
The exhibition Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979-1980, created by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, highlighted the vibrant and raw New York art scene, in which Basquiat - in next to no time - progressed from the creation of street art to the work by which we know him today. This exhibition in SCHUNCK marked the European première of the early work and life of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and his contemporaries. Visitors were able to familiarise themselves with the life and work of this iconic artist during his younger years, in the intimate setting of the apartment which he shared in 1979 with his then girlfriend, Alexis Adler. The exhibition displayed Basquiat’s work from his developmental years: from the poetic graffiti texts to his canvases which enjoyed instant appeal. Central to the exhibition were original works by himself and others, such as Keith Haring, Nan Goldin and Jenny Holzer. The exhibition also spotlighted the special part played by Dutch art in its rapid acceptance of Basquiat and his scene.
The different themes within the exhibition each exposed a period of Basquiat’s life and work. For example, Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980, with work produced by Jean-Michel Basquiat in the year that he lived with his girlfriend Alexis Adler. Work was also created under the pseudonym of SAMO©, pronounced Same-Oh, an abbreviation of Same Old Shit. It was under this name that Basquiat worked together with his friend Al Diaz as graffiti artist. Because of their satire, the tags and slogans they used became quickly recognisable on the streets and in the local newspapers. In the summer of 1980, the 20-year-old Basquiat exhibited his work publicly for the first time at The Times Square Show, a group exhibition organised by the art collective, COLAB (Collaborative Projects Inc.). What was so special and innovative about the art on display here was that the boundaries between ‘high’ art and popular culture were broken down. The contribution made by Basquiat to The Times Square Show shifts between graffiti and painting on canvas. More than 50 original works from The Times Square Show were displayed in SCHUNCK.
After this show, Basquiat focused his attention on painting. In 1981, his works were put on display for the first time at the New York/New Wave exhibition at PS1, now part of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Things then took off rapidly, with various solo exhibitions in the United States and in Europe in 1982. Between 1980 and his untimely death in 1988, Jean-Michel Basquiat created an extensive oeuvre of around one thousand paintings and two thousand drawings. The canvases are characterised by their energetic style and deal with confrontational issues such as exploitation, racism and oppression. Although from The Times Square Show onwards, Basquiat distanced himself from graffiti and street life, his poetic texts, words and letters – including the copyright symbol – continued to play a prominent role in his work. During the exhibition in SCHUNCK, the 78-minute-long documentary, Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (2018) - about his early years in New York, was played as a continuous loop.
The Basquiat exhibition was opened on 31 January by none other than Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands. The exhibition drew the highest number of visitors in SCHUNCK’s life as a cultural centre: over 25,000. More than half the visitors came from outside the region. The large numbers of young people visiting the museum, including school groups, as well as many visitors from the Euregion, was striking. Many side events were organised to coincide with the exhibition, the main crowd pullers being the Buurtbattles, a collaboration with Job Vermeesch from HFC dance studio, an exhibition of school-leavers from Bernardinuscollege in Heerlen, the presentation at Tefaf, and Basquiat Cafés in the concert venue Nieuwe Nor. The project attracted huge media coverage; no SCHUNCK initiative had been covered so widely in the press before – regionally, nationally nor internationally.