BASQUAIT’S POLICE BRUTALITY WORK HEADED TO GUGGENHEIM

By Erin White, December 19, 2018

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1983 painting “Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart)” was inspired by an early-morning encounter that Michael Stewart, 25, had with NYPD. Stewart was accused of spraying graffiti at a First Avenue subway station in the East Village. It was here where Stewart was kicked and beaten by as many as 11 police officers. “About 45 minutes later he arrived bruised, bleeding and comatose at Bellevue Hospital. …He died 13 days later without regaining consciousness.”Six white cops were eventually charged for the violence. All six cops were acquitted.

Fast-forward 35 years and Basquiat’s interpretation of the brutality is at the center of the Guggenheim’s “Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story” (June 21-Nov. 6, 2019). “[It] will explore a formative chapter in the artist’s career through the lens of his identity and the role of cultural activism in New York City during the early 1980s” and “examine Basquiat’s exploration of Black identity, his protest against police brutality, and his attempts to craft a singular aesthetic language of empowerment.”

According to CultureType, the painting (originally painted directly on the wall of Keith Haring’s studio) was never meant for public consumption and has rarely been exhibited, which makes its appearance at the Guggenheim, of all places, a bit ironic.

Erin White, December 19, 2018, afropunk.com, “BASQUAIT’S POLICE BRUTALITY WORK HEADED TO GUGGENHEIM”, https://afropunk.com/2018/12/basquaits-police-brutality-work-headed-to-guggenheim/

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