“Basquiat’s Defacement: The Untold Story”
Time Out says
You know you’re a big name in art history when a museum decides to build an entire exhibition around one of your works, and of course, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988) is just that sort of artist. The work in question in this Guggenheim show is Basquiat’s The Death of Michael Stewart, painted 1983 to commemorate the eponymous graffiti artist who died in police custody after being arrested while tagging a subway wall. The event was one of several racially charged controversies that dogged the mayoral administration of Ed Koch, but it seized the attention of the art world in particular. Basquiat created the piece, also known as Defacement, in Keith Haring’s studio and never intended to have it shown. Artistic intentions, however, tend to be overlooked by the demands of the art market, and so, Defacement is being surfaced as a sort of pre-Black-Lives-Matter statement—which it certainly was. The Guggenheim surrounds the piece with other canvases by the artist, along with contributions by Haring, Warhol, Stewart himself and ephemera (newspapers, etc.) related to the incident.