Swiss museum opens Europe’s most extensive retrospective of US artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Friday, May 7, 2010

Swiss open Europe’s largest Basquiat retrospective

GENEVA — A Swiss museum will present what it says is the broadest retrospective ever seen in Europe of the work of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The ambitious show hosted by the Beyeler Foundation features over 100 paintings, drawings and objects by Basquiat, with many borrowed from private collections, the foundation said Friday.

Basquiat’s career started in the New York underground graffiti and music scene before he became one of the most prominent American artists of the 1980s, praised for his strong use of color and the social commentary in his work.

He died of a drug overdose aged 27 in 1988.

The exhibition at the museum in Riehen near Basel marks the 50th anniversary of his birth.

Brooklyn-born Basquiat had no formal training and started his career scrawling graffiti on SoHo buildings and train wagons with a friend, Al Diaz. The two signed their work Samo, followed by a copyright symbol.

Basquiat was a close friend of Andy Warhol’s and the two collaborated on a series of works in 1985 that featured cartoon characters and corporate logos.

Basquiat also worked together with artists Keith Haring and Francesco Clemente. He appeared in public with pop star Madonna in the early 1980s and with Debbie Harry of the group Blondie.

His paintings, featuring angular figures, symbols and words, are included in the collections of the New York Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Basquiat created around 1,000 paintings and over 2,000 drawings in the space of eight years. His work had a heavy influence on the art scene in the 1990s.

The exhibition, set up with the support of Basquiat’s estate, will open on Sunday and run through Sept. 5.

will not be displayed