Basquiat Before Basquiat

East 12th Street, 1979–1980

Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980 includes the entire cache of works made by Jean-Michel Basquiat during the year he lived with his friend Alexis Adler in a small apartment in the East Village. The art and archival material provides rare insight into the artistic life of Basquiat before he achieved fame in the early 1980s. While living in this apartment, Basquiat’s creative impulses moved fluidly from his SAMO tags on the surrounding streets and neighborhood into a more sustained practice in their shared home. Through paintings, sculpture, works on paper, a notebook, and other ephemera, as well as Adler’s numerous photographs from this period, the exhibition documents the fluid evolution of Basquiat’s creative impulses into a more sustained practice. This exhibition includes rarely seen Basquiat works from local collections, adding a perspective of the artist’s evolution into the mid-’80s.

Basquiat Before Basquiat: East 12th Street, 1979–1980 is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and curated by Nora Burnett Abrams, Ellen Bruss Curator and Director of Planning. The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis exhibition is organized by Lisa Melandri, Executive Director.


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