Long Live the King: Jean-Michel Basquiat's Art Receives New Home in NYC

By Olivia Johnson | March 30, 2022

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Jean-Michel Basquiat’s contributions to art history explored themes that are still relevant to culture today. From social justice to classism to the objectification of women to the Black experience, Basquiat’s iconic work spoke of advocacy and equity in a way simple words couldn’t. He was a generous, inquisitive, gifted, and hardworking man. No one knew his character and realness more than his family, who now is offering a peek into his world.


Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Untitled (World Famous Vol. 1 Thesis)” (1983) PHOTO BY: COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT
Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Untitled (World Famous Vol. 1 Thesis)” (1983) PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure© (kingpleasure.basquiat.com), a 12,000-square-foot immersive exhibit, is organized and curated by the artist’s sisters Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, alongside his stepmother Nora Fitzpatrick, and will tell the story of Jean-Michel from the intimate perspective of his family and friends. The exhibit will intertwine his artistic endeavors with his personal life, influences, and the time he lived in. The exhibition is set to open on April 9 at the NYC landmark Starrett-Lehigh Building.


The official poster for the King Pleasure exhibit. PHOTO BY: CHRISTOPHER MAKOS
The official poster for the King Pleasure exhibit©. PHOTO BY: CHRISTOPHER MAKOS

“We wanted to bring his work and personality forward, in a way only his family can, for people to immerse themselves in. We want this to be an experiential and multidimensional celebration of Jean-Michel’s life,” Lisane Basquiat explains.


Sisters Jeanine Heriveaux and Lisane Basquiat PHOTO BY MIRANDA PENN TURIN
Sisters Jeanine Heriveaux and Lisane Basquiat PHOTO BY MIRANDA PENN TURIN

The display will feature over 200 never before and rarely seen paintings, drawings, ephemera and artifacts to give an intimate and multidimensional portrait of Basquiat. This is an exhibition that can only be told by those who knew him best: his family. The exhibit will function as a space where the family can celebrate the artist and share his story. Along with showcasing the rare unseen works of Basquiat, a dedicated soundtrack will accompany the exhibition. Sir David Adjaye OBE acts as the exhibition designer for Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure©.“The vision for this project is to reclaim the narrative of Basquiat’s life and work and to shed new light on an artist that is only partially understood,” Adjaye explains.


Architect David Adjaye. PHOTO BY CHRIS SCHWAGGA
Architect David Adjaye. PHOTO BY CHRIS SCHWAGGA

The Ghanaian-British architect is internationally known and celebrated for his ingenious use of materials, sculptural ability, and singular vision. He is the founder of Adjaye Associates, an architectural and design firm that operates globally with studios in Accra, London, and New York. Adjaye is known for his collaborations with contemporary artists on installations and exhibitions.


The artist as a child PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT
The artist as a child PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

Abbott Miller of Pentagram, a multidisciplinary design studio independently owned and run by a group of partners who are all active designers, created the exhibition’s identity and accompanying book.

Miller, a graphic designer, and writer created a hybrid design that crosses from page to screen to narrative and architectural environments. His past collaborations include the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, Louise Bourgeois, Matisse, and the Rolling Stones. “The most exciting aspect of the project is participating in a completely unique opportunity to interpret the work from such a personal perspective,” says Miller.


Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Jailbirds” (1983) PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT
Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Jailbirds” (1983) PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

Helping produce the exhibit with the Basquiat family is Ileen Sheppard Gallagher, the principal of ISG Productions. The company specializes in the management, creative development, and production of cultural, entertainment, and educational experiences that help inspire and inform. Gallagher has worked on iconic pop culture and art-related projects including Clive Davis Gallery, NYU; 2020’s The Rolling Stones—Unzipped exhibition; and 1999’s Rock Style exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The artist in 1983. PHOTO BY LEE JAFFE
The artist in 1983. PHOTO BY LEE JAFFE

Basquiat’s impact on Black pop culture can be seen in everything from hip-hop to art history and fashion. He was an integral figure in bringing uptown and downtown NYC culture together. Basquiat was a supporter of the early NYC graffiti writers painting on trains and often would offer guidance when they began to get attention from the art world. He worked hard to be a voice of creators and to give opportunities to those he saw limitless potential in.

“Jean-Michel stands at the forefront of a legacy of really strong people who are committed to showing up in the world in a specific way. Now our children know what can happen when you live your truth when you stand up for what’s right for you and exert work ethic, passion, and commitment,” Lisane shares.

Lisane and Jeanine, alongside his stepmother Nora, continue to work to make sure their late brother’s work and legacy are preserved. Basquiat’s influence has encouraged many people to pursue their passions in many forms. The sisters continue to make his work accessible to younger and diverse audiences. Thanks to their hard work, Basquiat’s legacy continues to be an influential force in art and pop culture, inspiring new generations of artists and musicians to come.

Photography by: JAMES VAN DER ZEE; PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT; CHRISTOPHER MAKOS; MIRANDA PENN TURIN; CHRIS SCHWAGGA; LEE JAFFE