The artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat has been examined and showcased many times over since his passing in 1988. Although his life’s work is memorialized through film, books, art shows, and documentaries, none of the projects explored aspects of his years as a collaborator with New York’s Hip-Hop street scene just before he became famous until now.
At the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, enthusiasts can visit “Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation,” their latest exhibition on Basquiat’s influence in the world of underground graffiti art and the early days of Hip-Hop culture. The show features his work in painting, sculpture, drawing, video, music, and fashion, alongside works by his legendary friends and collaborators, just as he begain transition into the mainstream.
The New York Times explores how closely aligned the young artist was to some of the era’s boldest Black and Latinx creatives to help shape Hip-Hop culture in the 1980s– Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, Keith Haring, Kool Koor, LA2, Lady Pink, Lee Quiñones, to name a few. Simply put, Basquiat’s relationship with a community of color and Black contemporaries wasn’t as mainstream as his collaborations with white artists because of racism.
“‘The art world is not interested in rallying around the work of these artists being as important to the conversation around Jean-Michel’ as were his collaborations with Andy Warhol and Francesco Clemente,” said the museum’s curator of contemporary art Liz Munsell to the New York Times. “That emphasis on him having a Black community, a community of color, has never really been highlighted.”
The legendary Fab 5 Freddy gets his flowers in the article, too. During his teenage years, he and Basquiat wandered the museum scene, which later helped develop a popular underground art scene that showcased their work alongside street artists, including Holzer, Haring, Quiñones, in a museum context. The exposure caught like wildfire in New York City’s contemporary art and club scene, allowing for the work to transition to mainstream realms of film and music. Take some time to watch the movie “Style Wars” and “Wild Style” one day.
Catch the exhibition before it closes on July 25 at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.