Learn / Create

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Interactive Virtual Tour
Exploring Symbols in Art
Heroes in Art
New York July 15th, 2020

At the onset of the 1980s, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960- 1988) took the art world by storm with his powerful and highly complex works, achieving a comprehensive oeuvre of over 1,000 paintings and more than 2,000 drawings in less than a decade. Radical in both his artistic practice and life, Basquiat made the streets of Lower Manhattan his studio, joining the creative outpour that was emerging in the late 1970s and 80s in New York City. Basquiat’s place in the East Village art scene remains absolute and for the first time in decades, this exhibition brings his work back to the same neighborhood that inspired it.

Click on the circles that appear on your screen to move through the space and explore The Brant Foundation’s 2019 Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition at its New York space!

© Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

360 VR tour captured and produced by Tom Powel Imaging 


Third Dimension: Works from The Brant Foundation (The Brant Foundation, New York)

Jean-Michel Basquiat (The Brant Foundation, New York)

The Brant Foundation Shop – Jean-Michel Basquiat


Basquiat’s use of language in his works functions like a road map for the viewer, with the artist revealing and crossing out words to show a distilled narrative of thought. Words and names are often abbreviated, fusing form and content, evoking the Modernist concrete poetry exemplified by the writings of William S. Burroughs and Gertrude Stein and pointing to the birth of hip-hop, then a nascent art form, in which Basquiat was involved. Not only did he create a form of visual hip-hop through the rhythm of words and design, Basquiat also worked in numerous Manhattan clubs as a deejay and made music with fellow musicians including Nicholas Taylor and Michael Holman. Later works such as Untitled (1986) show a progression of this free association manifested into dense collages of words overflowing like a flood of thoughts and feelings onto the paper.

“With his way of working, he anticipated the principle of our copy-paste society and literally signaled the coming madness of our allover communication in his art,” says Buchhart.


Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings of boxers are among his most personally and politically charged subjects. In the figure of the Black boxer, Basquiat found an alluring icon of self-made power, a hero for the modern era, an athletic champion who manages to triumph in a world where the odds were firmly stacked against him in the form of deep-seated racial prejudices. This was a heroic figure that Basquiat deeply identified with, as a young man possessed of powerful artistic talent, of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage, going up against the predominantly white world of the art establishment.

As Basquiat famously declared in a 1983 interview, he defined the subject of his art as “Royalty, heroism and the streets” (quoted in H. Geldzahler, “Art: From the Subways to Soho, Jean-Michel Basquiat,” Interview, January 1983). The human figure quickly emerged as the central theme in Basquiat’s work, which he would use as a vehicle for melding autobiography with references to popular culture and Black history.