Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Location: Mudec – Museo delle Culture
Address: Spazio Focus, via Tortona 56, Milano, IT

Date: 28.10.2016 – 26.02.17



The Jean Michel Basquiat exhibit opened at MUDEC (Museum of Cultures) features almost 100 works from private collections curated by Jeffrey Deitch and Gianni Mercurio. The artworks displayed include canvases, some dishes portraying famous artists, wood surfaces and other materials used by him.







On the right of the hallway that leads to the main exhibition room you will find his biography displayed using impressive caligraphy artwork and pictures of him.

Basquiat - His Life - Mudec
His life between 1960-1968

In 1967, after his parents separation, he went to live with his father and his younger sisters L/.58/70 and Jeanine. During that period, he made a book for children with his schoolmate Marc Prozzo and continued to draw his favourite subjects: drawing inspiration from Hitchcock’s films, from comics and from the characters illustrated by Alfred E. Neuman in the comic book Mad Magazine. He loved reading novels in English, French and Spanish.

In 1968, he was hit by a car.
During his convalescence in hospital, which lasted one month, he received Henry Gay’s famous anatomy book, as a gift from his mother, which had a fundamental influence on the work of Basquiat, who assimilated anatomical elements and details and incorporated them in his works.

In 1974 Gerard Basquiat moved to Puerto Rico for work purposes, with his two daughters and with Jean-Michel, who was already a restless boy who ran away from home for the first time.

In 1976 his father went back to live in New York, in a district south of Brooklyn. Jean-Michel was enrolled at the alternative public high school “City as School”, which offered specific programs for talented teenagers who had difficulties integrating into conventional institutes. There Jean-Michel met Al Diaz, a graffiti artist. The two became friends and together they disseminated on the walls of Manhattan’s Lower East Side Poetical and enigmatic sentences, protest aphorisms with political, philosophical and religious references, signing themselves SAMO, an acronym for “Same Old Shit”.

In 1980 he displayed his works for the first time at the group exhibition “Times Square Show”, organized in the “alternative” art gallery Fashion Moda by an artists’ collective, which included, among others, Kenny Scharf, Kiki Smith and Jenny Holzer. Basquiat’s work was mentioned in the review of the exhibition by the authoritative “Art in America” magazine and so he abandoned the Gray group to dedicate himself exclusively to painting.

In 1981 he played the main character in the film New York Beat Movie, which describes the day of a poor artist in the East Village, produced by Maripol, the fashion designer and art director of Fiorucci and directed by the film director Edo Bertoglio, which was released only in 2000, presented at the Cannes festival, with the new title: “Downtown 81”. With his earnings from the film he purchased materials to paint and moved into a studio in Great Jones Street, in Soho. Also in 1981 he took part in the exhibition “New York / New Wave”, organized by Diego Cortez at Long Island’s PS 1, to which twenty or more artists participated, among which Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Kenny Scharf and Robert Mappelthorpe. The gallery were owners Annina Nosei, Bruno Bischofberger and Emilio Mazzoli. Among the three, Mazolli was the only one who immediately appreciated Basquiat’s work and, encouraged by the artist Sandro Chia purchased some of his works and offered him to hold his first solo exhibition in Modena. In September, Annina Nosei became his main art dealer and included him in her “Public Address” exhibition. From that moment Basquiat established his atelier in the basement below Nosei’s gallery. In this period the first important article on him, titled ‘The Radiant Child” was written by Rene Ricard and published in “Artforum”.

In 1982 Annina Nosei’s Gallery held his first solo exhibition which obtained a great success among critics anon collectors. He was then included in the “Transavanguardia/America” exhibition, at the Galleria Civica of Modena curated by Achille Bonito Oliva where his works were displayed next to those of the artists Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, David Salle and Julian Schnabel. His works were exhibited in April at the Art Gallery of Larry Gagosian in Los Angeles at the exhibition he organized together with Annina Nosei. In June he took part in Kassel’s “Documenta” and was the youngest among the 176 artists that were present, which included, among other young artists, the already established Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly. Gerard Richter and Joseph Beuys , Bruno Bischofberger takes over from Annina Nosei and becomes his exclusive art merchant worldwide. In 1983 his works were exhibited for the second time in Los Angeles by Gagosian and he was invited to the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial. A period of travels and exhibitions began which lead him to Milan, Madrid, Zurich and Tokyo.

In 1984 he established himself in Maui, Hawaii and opened a workshop. Upon his return to New York, he formed a connection with the Mary Boone Gallery which was associated with Bischofberger. In May he took part in the exhibition ” An international Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture” for reopening of the Museum of Modern Art of New York and in France in the collective “Figuration Libre France/USA” at the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris.
In the month of August, he held his first solo exhibition in a museum area, the Fruitmarket Gallery of Edinburgh; the exhibition then moved to London (Institute of Contemporary Art) and to Rotterdam (Museum Boijmans van Beuningen). Encouraged by Bischofberger, he did a series of “Collaboration” works with Andy Warhol and Francesco Clemente, which were exhibited for the first time in Zurich in September. Towards the end of the year, he met Jennifer Goode, with whom he experienced the most important love affair of his life.
In February 1985 the “New York Times Magazine” published his photo on the cover. The title of the relevant long article was “New Art, New Money”. The marketing of an American Artist.
He exhibited the “Collaborations” realized with Warhol at Tony Shrafrazi’s Art Gallery, which did not meet with a favorable reception. During this year his works were exhibited by Bischofberger, Mary Boome,Annina Nosei and Akira Ikeda in Tokyo, as well as in a collective in New York’s Palladium.
In this period, however, he increased his use of drugs and his health condition began to deteriorate rapidly.

In August 1986 he went to Africa for the first time, for an exhibition in Abidjan. He took part for the second time in Europe, in an important exhibition with sixty works at the Knester-Gesellschaft of Hannover.
Basquiat’s friends started getting seriously worried by his drug abuse. He became intractable and was abandoned by Jennifer Goode.
In 1987, deeply affected by Andy Warhorl’s death, he increasingly withdrew from public life and worked with less intensity. In the meantime, he had broken off his association with Mary Boone and subsequently Vrej Bagoomian became his manager in the United States. Between 1987 and 1988 he exhibited his works in several important galleries in Europe, among which Daniei Templon and Yvon Lambert in Paris and Hans Mayer in Düsseldorf. He spent a short period of time In Maui, to be treated for drug addiction.

“If you had only twenty-four hours left to live, what would you do?” “I don’t know. I’d go hang out with my mother and my girlfriend, I guess.”

Basquiat – video interview, Tamra Davis and Becky Johnston, 1986

On August 12, 1988, he died of a heroin overdose at his art studio on Great Jones Street in Manhattan’s while he was 27 years old.

More about the day he died: