Family Of Jean-Michel Basquiat Opens New Exhibit Honoring His Life & Legacy


Photo: Getty Images

The family of renown artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has opened a new exhibit to honor his life and impact on the art world.

The exhibit, titled "King Pleasure," opened at the Starrett-Lehigh Building in NYC earlier this month, and features 200 never-before-seen works by the late painter.

Basquiat passed away in 1988 at the age of 27. In those three decades since, his influence and work have grown considerably, reaching millions across generations. This new exhibit, though, offers a look at the artist's life and work through the lens of his family.

"The theme is really Jean-Michel as a human being," Basquiat's sister, Jeanine Heriveaux, told NBC News. "Before he was an artist, he was a son. He was a brother. He was a nephew –– and we're trying to show that human side of Jean-Michel and where he came from, his childhood, and our personal relationships with him," Heriveaux added.

The exhibit has been a work-in-progress since 2017 through the efforts of Heriveaux, her sister Lisane Basquiat and their stepmother Nora Fitzpatrick.

The Covid-19 pandemic put things on hold, but they feel now is the right time to showcase Basquiat's life and legacy as a Brooklyn native who comes from a Haitian and Puerto Rican background, which also played a role in his artistic expression.

Basquiat is credited with bringing graffiti to the world of mainstream art and used his platform to shed light on social issues Black people in America faced. His sister said one incident in particular –– the 1983 police-involved death of Michael Stewart, a Black man who was arrested for spraying graffiti on a NYC subway station wall –– changed Jean-Michel.

"It shook him so much. He stated that he though it could be him. Whatever thoughts that were occurring in his mind... he sketched about them. He painted about them," Heriveaux said.

His signature crown figure was also symbolic of his efforts to empower Black people, he "was one of the very few people early on to claim a crown –– to claim that he was royalty," Lisane Basquiat said.

The new exhibit spans 15,000 square feet and features a recreation of his studio and childhood home. To purchase ticket or learn more, click HERE.

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