The explosive energy of the wild, gritty and downright dangerous world of New York in the 1980s comes to London this month in an all-encompassing exhibition of the work by urban pioneer, Jean-Michel Basquiat. More than 100 works produced during the artist’s short life have been brought together for Boom for Real at Barbican Art Gallery, which opened 21 September and runs through 28 January of next year.
The expansive works have been gleaned from international museums and private collections across the globe, presenting a cohesive insight into the bright and eclectic mind of Basquiat, whose signature mash up of energetic brushstrokes and street poetry won the hearts of the art world nearly 40 years ago.
Now an art history icon, it’s easy to forget that Basquiat was just a young man when his star began to rise. At 20 (when most of us were struggling with making it to university class on time), he showed at the esteemed Times Square Show, befriended Andy Warhol, starred in Glenn O’Brien’s cult classic film Downtown 81, played The Mudd Club with his band Gray, and began working on his first solo exhibition with Annina Nosei Gallery.
By 23, he’d already painted collaborative works with Warhol, began showing with star gallerist Larry Gagosian, starred in Blondie’s Rapture video, and dated Madonna. During his short life, Basquiat enjoyed the attention and success of a glittering art star; but after his death at 27, his star continued to rise, and continues to smash through his own records year after year. Most recently an Untitled piece from 1982 sold for a whopping $110,487,500- the most expensive American artwork in history.
Part of Basquiat’s universal appeal is his mesh of history, and street style, which captured his own philosophy as well as the spirit of a tumultuous time in New York that is often romanticized in the art world. His brilliant way of mixing contrasting ideas in his artwork, like poverty versus wealth, or segregation versus integration, made for an impactful and powerful style that rose from the original graffiti movement.
This massive collection of Basquiat’s works, hung together for the first time, is a rare treat to thoroughly experience the artist’s incredible oeuvre- especially because the exhibition is rounded out by rare film, photography and archive material. Boom for Real is a not to miss- and will likely book up quickly, so reserve tickets now.
Keen to see some more urban artworks?
Okay so pop art isn't technically an art '-ism'. In essence it is though, suffixes aside. Pop art emerged in the fifties and went on to take the American and British contemporary art scenes by storm over the following decade. Young artists were sick of the stuffy subjects and styles they encountered in museums and at art school. In response, they began to produce art that reflected their everyday. Movies, comics, pop music, advertising. This was the stuff of daily life, and of current visual culture.
We've highlighted five artists who, half a century on, use the style of pop art to respond to the darker aspects of modern culture.
1. Magnus Gjoen
Magnus takes imagery from the art tradition and gives it a twist. Drawing inspiration from the pop artists' revolt against established art practice, he overpowers traditional styles with dark contemporary subject matter. Guns, grenades and skulls dominate Magnus's work.
At first glance Takashi's work appears childfriendly. The renowned Japanese artist incorporates the aesthetics of digital animation and manga (Japanese comics) in his 'Superflat' style. On one level, Takashi's imagery is cute and colourful. But a sinister undertone bubles beneath these seemingly perky pieces. Take for example the somewhat demonic look in Minnie's eyes in 'And Then...' below.
Etienne's 'Toy Stories' series subverts the conventional studio portrait format. Gone are the idealised pastoral backgrounds. In their place lies dilapidation and ruin. The French artist uses these all-too-real troubled environments as the backdrop for some seriously unconventional (and seriously provocative) mass-produced figures.
Much like Takashi Murakami, her mentor, Chiho uses imagery from Japanese popular culture to create colourful, cartoon-like works that in fact have an ominous tone. Her dreamy, semi-surreal landscapes are littered with demons, ghosts and skull motifs. Even more disturbing is her commentary on female sexuality and the fetish for adolescent girls in visual culture.
Michael's paintings are inspired by horror and B-movie imagery. The British artist hurls together iconography, symbols and references from these popular sources to create new narratives that are both dark and humorous. Michael's paintings are resonant of our frenzied, over-stimulated modern world; a world that leaves us disorientated and grasping at echoes of what we think we know.
Discovering talent, supporting artists and bringing art to art lovers worldwide are three things we’re pretty passionate about at Rise Art. You could say a partnership with the National Youth Arts Trust was a match made in heaven. The charity has been transforming the lives of young people across the nation since 2013 by providing children from non-privileged backgrounds access to the performing arts. We couldn’t think of a better cause to get behind.
Tonight we’re co-hosting an all-star charity Art Auction featuring (generously) donated artworks from a selection of Rise Art’s most talented contemporary artists. With patrons of the charity including the likes of Ewen McGregor, Hugh Bonneville and Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry (selfie-sticks at the ready) it's sure to be a memorable evening. The silent auction is open right now and has already raised 10k. Before tonight’s live auction kicks off we're giving you a sneak preview of some of our artist highlights...
With international commissions for the likes of Liberty, the Rio Olympics and the New York Times under her belt, this Icelandic artist is renowned for her uniquely intricate artworks. Kristjana spends hours cutting paper by hand to construct stunning maps of London, fantastical animals and 3D globes. Her original pieces are truly masterful and her beautiful prints are rich with colourful details to devour. Paddles at the ready.
Meet the artist putting a satirical, contemporary twist on Renaissance art. Magnus deems himself an ‘accidental artist’, having left behind the world of fashion to pursue a career as an artist. Decadent motifs meet symbolic silhouettes to create punchy graphic works with a deliciously dark edge. The artwork he’s donated to the auction is sure to cause a stir tonight.
Mikela’s vivid portraits tackle issues surrounding the representation of women from minorities in society. The Jamaican artist lives in London and paints candid works that capture the beauty and prowess of her subjects, bringing them to life on canvas. Having only recently graduated from Central Saint Martins, Mikela is already making a name for herself in the contemporary art world. Having exhibited her works across London and gained plenty of press coverage, she's definitely one to watch.
We catch up with Fifi McGee in the midst of her all-consuming house renovation to chat about making her farmhouse dream a reality, and where she seeks inspiration.
The Fauves, French for 'Wild Beasts', were so termed because of their liberal application of colour and their disregard for realism. Intense colours, thick brushstrokes and simplified forms characterise their work. We spotlight five artists whose work is reminiscent of the vibrant Fauvist movement.
Lisa Takahashi is a British printmaker who works in linocut. Her colourful, geometric prints have been featured at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and on BBC Surrey. We ask Lisa why she likes working in linocut and about how she produces her prints.
Who has exhibitions coming up? Which are the big shows you don't want to miss? We've got it all covered.
Venice Beach and Hollywood Boulevard aside, there is some seriously good art to see in LA, and we're here to tell you what, when and why.
Lucy Gough is a successful Australian interior stylist based in London. She writes a weekly blog post on the theme of Bringing the Outside In, no doubt inspired by her roots in the vast landscapes of Down Under.
On 19 August 1839, the patent for the Daguerreotype - the first photographic process - was released to the world. And we have the French government of the time to thank. Merci. Photography has come a long way and we tend to take for granted the technological leaps and bounds that have happened over the past century and three quarters. We spotlight five artists who push photography even further, testing the limits of subject and technique.