Basquiat: The Modena Paintings
Reuniting eight key Basquiat works that mark the graffiti artist’s transition to painterly autonomy
This catalog focuses on eight paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat made in the summer of 1982, when he traveled to Modena, Italy, for one of his first solo exhibitions in Europe at the gallery of Emilio Mazzoli. Within the span of just a few days, Basquiat painted a group of large-format paintings that surpassed his previous work in both scale and method. Each measuring around 6.5 by 13 feet, these works mark Basquiat’s transition from creating graffiti in the streets of Manhattan to painting on canvas. The conception and occasion of the exhibition ultimately proved fraught, and instead of conceding to pressure and expectations, Basquiat canceled the show. The paintings–including masterpieces that today are considered pivotal and among the most outstanding of his oeuvre–have never been shown together. This catalog revisits this crucial moment of Basquiat’s career and reunites them for the first time.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–88) grew up in Brooklyn. Notoriety came early, from his street paintings made under the tag SAMO. Later he stormed the gallery world, and became an icon of New York's vibrant early-’80s downtown scene, a friend to and collaborator with Andy Warhol and Francesco Clemente, and the cover boy for a 1985 New York Times Magazine story on the new art market. He died following a heroin overdose at 27.