I have liked the artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat since discovering him back in A-Level art days. I think what drew me to him was the immediacy of his artwork and the fact he came from a graffiti background. One of the first street artists to crack the art world along with his contemporary Keith Haring, who along with Basquiat was taken from us at a young age.
I feel his work reflected the pace of New York – full of noise. In his work you can see and feel that. The snippets of conversation, advertising slogans and copyright symbols all with bright, speedily applied layers of colour. His love of jazz also comes across, the paintings appear improvised and added to, until he chooses to end the process.
I visited the Barbican last week just before the exhibition opened, somehow resisting the accompanying great looking branded gifts and books, forget exit through the gift shop – it’s enter through it here. Which brings me to the Banksy artwork outside the Barbican. I’m in two minds as to how this was done. Was it a genuine Banksy piece done off his own back or a clever publicity stunt?
Basquiat may divide option amongst fans of street art / fine art. From what I’ve read he was well aware of the appetite of early 80s New York for Art and he sprayed his artwork at the more classy areas of the city. He once interrupted Andy Warhol whilst he was having dinner to sell him a postcard. Once the two became friends they exhibited together – with Warhol being his champion and art sugar daddy, even leasing him an apartment at one stage.
He burned bright and left us at the rock star age of 27. His legacy is a body of work that resonates to this day. With a raw, primal feel it commands attention – even 30 years on.