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Basquiat’s Sisters Create Intimate Look at the Artist’s Life in Groundbreaking Exhibition

Jean-Michel Basquiat Sitting in LA Studio

Jean-Michel Basquiat in Los Angeles (Photo: Brad Branson)

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an exceptional artistic talent who was lost far too soon. This is made all the more clear in a new exhibition organized by his estate. Curated by his sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure, is an intimate look at the artist that could only be organized by those who knew and loved him most. After an incredible run in New York City, the exhibition has moved to Los Angeles at The Grand LA, giving those on the West Coast a chance to learn more about this shining star of the 1980s arts scene.

Over 200 rare and never-before-seen paintings and drawings, as well as ephemera, help tell the story of Basquiat's life. There are also recreations of his New York City art studio, his family home, and the Michael Todd VIP Room of NYC’s iconic Palladium nightclub, for which he created two large-scale paintings. Architect David Adjaye created these immersive environments, which allow visitors to dive into Basquiat's world.

The family also made sure to explore other events in Basquiat's life that would have surely influenced his artistic output. This includes his time spent living in Puerto Rico as a child, as well as travels to the Ivory Coast, and his time working in Los Angeles.

While there have been many exhibitions about Basquiat in the nearly 40 years since his untimely death, the family element of King Pleasure makes this unique. Harper's Bazaar calls it “an unprecedented look at the creative evolution of the artist behind the legend.”

Basquiat and His Sisters as Children

Photo: The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Through the show, his sisters hope to show the public more about where their brother came from and to take back the narrative of his life. “We’re his family,” Heriveaux told Los Angeles Times. “So we understand the layers and complexity and the facets that made him the man that he became.”

Both Basquiat and Heriveaux, who began managing the estate in 2013 when their father passed away, found the experience of producing the exhibition difficult yet cathartic. To make it happen, they spent five years shifting through the artwork and personal effects that their brother had left behind.

After New York, it was only fitting that the show move to Los Angeles. Basquiat spent long stretches of time in the city between 1982 and 1984, using his Venice Beach studio as an escape from the pressures of New York, where he was the darling of the art world. His sisters recall him being able to relax and focus on his art while in LA, making the city a vital lifeline for his creativity. And now, in some way, this exhibition is a full circle moment in repaying the city for all that it meant to him during that period.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure is on view at The Grand LA until July 31, 2023. Tickets are available for purchase online.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure is an intimate look at the brilliant artist, who was lost too soon.

Lee Jaffe Portrait of Basquiat

Photo: Lee Jaffe

Curated by Basquiat's sisters, it includes intimate immersive environments that paint the story of his life.

Portrait of Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux

Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux (Photo: Kurt Iswarienko)

His family spent five years combing his archives for the 200 rare and never before seen artworks and ephemera included in the show.

Jailbirds by Basquiat

“Jailbirds,” 1983. (© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Licensed by Artestar New York)

Charles the First by Basquiat

“Charles the First,” 1982. (© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Licensed by Artestar New York)

Jawbone of an Ass by Basquiat

“Jawbone of an Ass,” 1982. (© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Licensed by Artestar New York)

(Untitled) 100 Yen by Basquiat

“(Untitled) 100 Yen,” 1982. (© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Licensed by Artestar New York)

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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