London is set to see its first large-scale exhibition of the work of the late American artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat this month.  On 23rd September, the Barbican opens its Basquiat: Boom for Real retrospective - sure to be a thrilling (and long-overdue) experience for fans of the short-lived, bright-shining star.

Basquiat, described as “a pioneering prodigy of the 1980’s downtown New York art scene”, grew up in Brooklyn and took to graffiti art as part of the duo SAMO© during his homeless teenage years.  Soon after, he caught the notice of Andy Warhol and fame and fortune then weren’t far behind for the “self-taught artist, poet, DJ, and musician”.

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Brightest stars burn out fastest, however, Basquiat tragically dying in 1988 from a heroin overdose at just 27 years of age.  Yet, his impact on the art world lives on. 

Basquiat: Boom for Real displays over 100 of his works, lent from both international museums and private collections alike, and also features “rare film, photography, and archive material”.  Basquiat’s friend Felice Rosser perhaps put it best: “In a world where Black people [were] not celebrated, he did it; he blew the lid off that sucker”.  His impact was indeed enough to warrant Julian Schnabel to make a biopic on him; enough to set the auction world alight recently with the record sale of his Untitled graffiti painting of a skull.

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Certainly, Basquiat’s paintings are “bright, wild, unique”, inspired by a phenomenal range of topics, from anatomy to African art.  The title of the exhibition itself is inspired by Sara Driver’s new film on the artist, BOOM FOR REAL: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, which is being screened at the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival this month.

Part of a “Basquiat Season” at the Barbican, during the exhibition’s run there will be various other events to compliment it.  This includes an experimental theatrical gig by nitroBEAT (Suckerpunch – Boom Suite) on 29th and 30th September, responding to “themes and deeper truths” in the artist’s work, celebrating “freedom of expression through contemporary black culture, cross-fertilisation, liberation, and inclusivity”. 

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To follow next month are the Too Young for What? showcase on 7th October (displaying new work from young people from East London inspired by the creativity of Basquiat), as well as Booker Prize-winning author Ben Okri’s Basquiat-inspired poetry reading on 19th October, and Basquiat scholar Jordana Moore Saggese’s exploration of the artist’s “fascination with film and television” in Basquiat and the Screen on 26th October.

Described by The Guardian as “Autumn’s unmissable hit”, the exhibition will run until the end of January next year.  Sponsored by NET-A-PORTER, tp bennet, and Phillips, the exhibition is also supported in part by an Art Fund Jonathon Ruffer Curatorial Research Grant

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Advanced booking is noted as “essential” and be forewarned that no bags – even handbags – will be permitted inside (a free cloakroom is available adjacent to the entrance).

With Basquiat: Boom for Real, the UK is finally celebrating what America has lauded for so long.