Basquiat: Boom For Real, hosted at the Barbican, offers the first comprehensive retrospective of the notorious American artist, going from his start as a graffiti artist in New York City all the way to his rise to worldwide notoriety.

Basquiat: Boom For Real, hosted at the Barbican, offers the first comprehensive retrospective of the notorious American artist, going from his start as a graffiti artist in New York City all the way to his rise to worldwide notoriety.

Tomorrow, on September 21, the Barbican will open the doors to the first major UK-based exhibition on notorious American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The show, entitled Basquiat: Boom for Real, explores his rise to icon status, going from his graffiti beginnings in the early 70s all the way to his death in 1988 at the age of 27.

Never having received formal training but fixated with drawing from the get-go (a trait he is said to have inherited from his mother), Basquiat’s pieces are recognisable from a mile away. Colourful paint splatters are mixed and matched with capitalised sentences, making strong commentary on America’s class system, racial inequality and colonialism.

Basquiat rose to notoriety as part of duo SAMO© (Same Old Shit) at the age of seventeen. Under that moniker, he and text-artist Al Diaz would graffiti capitalised cryptic messages and jokes onto the walls of New York City. Continuing to grow within the post-punk creative world, in 1981 his work is featured in the New York / New Age exhibition, alongside the creations of other soon-to-become icons, such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.

Surprisingly, despite Basquiat’s multitude of talents and his worldwide recognition, both as an independent artist and an integral part of the poetic chaos that was the art scene of 80s New York, not one of his artworks are held in a UK public collection. This makes Boom for Real the first British show to show over 100 pieces by the artist, some never before seen, offering a comprehensive retrospective of the iconic artist, including notebooks, drawings and plenty of other memorabilia.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Self Portrait, 1984 Private collection. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Self Portrait, 1984. Private collection.
© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Untitled (Pablo Picasso), 1984 Private collection, Italy. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Pablo Picasso), 1984. Private collection, Italy.
© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jennifer Stein Anti-Baseball Card Product, 1979 Courtesy Jennifer Von Holstein. © Jennifer Von Holstein and The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jennifer Stein, Anti-Baseball Card Product, 1979.
Courtesy Jennifer Von Holstein.
© Jennifer Von Holstein and The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Licensed by Artestar, New York.

 Jean-Michel Basquiat Glenn, 1984 Private collection. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Glenn, 1984. Private collection.
© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Jean-Michel Basquiat A Panel of Experts, 1982 Courtesy The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo: MFA, Douglas M. Parker

Jean-Michel Basquiat, A Panel of Experts, 1982.
Courtesy The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York.
Photo: MFA, Douglas M. Parker

Jean-Michel Basquiat Hollywood Africans, 1983 Courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hollywood Africans, 1983.
Courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
© The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris. Licensed by Artestar, New York.

Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, 1983 © Roland Hagenberg

Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, 1983 © Roland Hagenberg

Basquiat: Boom For Real is on at the Barbican Art Gallery, London from September 21 until January 28, 2018.

Biju Belinky is Huck’s staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.

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