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Basquiat to Hold First Major UK Exhibition at the Barbican

Tuesday 04 October 2016

Despite the importance of the work of Jean Michel-Basquiat and his prominence in the New York art scene during the 1980s, there has never been a major exhibition in the UK, and not a single gallery in the country holds any of his work. However, the Barbican has announced that next year they will curate ‘Boom For Real’, exhibiting over 100 pieces of his work, many never seen before in the UK.


Basquiat’s begun as part of the graffiti duo SAMO (‘same old, same old bullshit’), who made their mark on the streets of New York City and by the late 1970s had achieved cult status. He emerged from the underground art scene to create neo-expressionist paintings, rising to notoriety with his bold, visceral work. His beginnings in graffiti are evident in his paintings, which have a sketchy style and regularly feature diagrams, logos, pictograms, words and letters. This marriage of image and text further fuelled their striking message, with his work often providing a social commentary: exploring identity, racial injustice, poverty, and integration vs. segregation.

28 years after his death, the exhibition will revisit the first body of work that Basquiat ever showcased, which first appeared in a group show called New York/New Wave in 1981, his breakout year. This will show why his work attracted such a great deal of attention so quickly. There will also be less known examples of Basquiat’s work on display, as well as his journals and notebooks that will explore his relationship to music, film and television to explore how he drew from a wide range of source material and referenced from pop culture.


In their press released Barbican’s Head of Visual Arts, Jane Alison, said, “The creative brilliance and emotive power of Basquiat continues to have a huge impact and influence on a wide range of artists, filmmakers, and musicians. This will, therefore, be a rare opportunity for visitors to see a huge body of some of his most famous and also little-known works in one place.” The exhibition will detail Basquiat’s artistic journey, capture his creative energy, explore the complexity of his work, and highlight his significant impact as an artist.

The ‘Basquiat: Bloom for Real’ exhibition will take place from 21st September 2017 – 28 January 2018 at the Barbican Art Gallery. For more info, visit: www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery.