Jean-Michel Basquiat was the first black superstar of the art world. The popular Barbican exhibition entitled "Boom for Real" is now on show in Frankfurt, featuring an artist whose work is as contemporary as ever.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, the first the black superstar of the art world. Immigrant kid of a Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father, member of the middle class and homeless at certain points in his life. A jazz fan and a hip-hopper.
He was a darling of the white art world, yet was never the wild, tough black man white people wanted to see in him. He was well-read and multilingual. He wore designer suits, yet had trouble flagging down a taxi.
When he died of an overdose of heroin at age 27, he left behind an oeuvre of some 1,000 paintings, and double that number of drawings. It turned him into a myth.
Read more: Basquiat painting sells for record price
Beyond the art market, a role model
Nowadays, his pictures sell for record prices. One of his untitled works went to a Japanese collector for $110 million. That's no isolated incident.
Surprisingly, many of his works have disappeared in private collections; just a few have made it into the collections of major museums.
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What is the value of his work beyond the money? Art historian and Basquiat curator Dieter Buchhart takes a broad view. "Basquiat is in the company of other greats like Martin Luther King and Michael Jackson who made it possible for the first African American president, Barack Obama, to be elected," he said.
It was because Basquiat exposed the white way of viewing things in an ironic manner and because he protested against racism and oppression with his art that he is still, 20 years after his death, a role model for many young African Americans who are involved in the "Black Lives Matter" movement, Buchhart pointed out.
Pioneer of the copy and paste age
Now, Germans art fans and others can take a closer look at Basquiat's art-historical value at the first major solo exhibition of the US-American artist's works in Germany in 32 years.
Following a stint at London's Barbican Center, around 100 of his paintings, as well as drawings, notes and photographs, are on show in "Boom for Real" at Frankfurt's Shirn exhibition hall. The exhibition runs from February 16 through May 27, 2018.