17 March 2015




Hailed as one of the most important artists of the 21st century, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art is currently on display at the AGO in the exhibit, Now’s the Time, on until May 7.

Unfortunately the AGO does not allow photography in this exhibit, so you will have to bear with me. I've nabbed some of these photos from BlogTO. For those unfamiliar with Basquiat’s work, some pieces are available on the AGO exhibit website.

In his early days as a street artist Basquiat was always dismayed at the fact that there were no black artists or representations of Black bodies in art museums. 
"I think there are a lot of people who are neglected in art. Black people are never really portrayed realistically, not even portrayed in modern art." - Jean-Michel Basquiat 
In his paintings he began tackling the issues of racism, class struggle and social tension. He painted to represent the Black bodies that he believed were so glaringly missing from art galleries.

Untitled (Skull) By Jean-Michel Basquiat 

Basquiat’s art remains powerful today, especially with spreading the message that Black Lives Matter. Throughout the exhibition which meanders through a number of rooms, quotes appear from Black artists, musicians, and political figures fitting into this theme of empowering Black lives and bodies. Strains of Charlie Parker welcomes you into the gallery and in one area, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream Speech Plays,” and echoes throughout the space. 

A series of collaborative works created by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. 

In continuing to drive this message home, throughout the gallery are excerpts from prominent African-American/Canadian artists, professors, curators, and museum professionals, who write about what Basquiat’s work means to them. It really sheds light on his work and the way he has affected people personally. At the end of the exhibit (after walking through the gift shop) there is an interactive area where gallery visitors are invited to film, or write down their responses to the exhibit and what Basquiat’s work means to them.

Interactive Space at the end of the Exhibit 

On a personal level I liked this exhibit, but was a bit disappointed that his relationship with Suzanne, his muse, was not mentioned once. I just finished reading Widow Basquiat, and was really looking forward to seeing her influence in his art. I do understand however that the goal of this exhibit is about representing the Black body in art, and his paintings of Suzanne do not necessarily fit into this.

The story of Jean-Michel Basquiat and his lover/muse Suzanne

Overall it is a powerful experience and I think that everyone gets something different out of it. The exhibit is on until May 7, and with the weather warming up, I highly recommend going.

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