While visiting New Orleans in December, I caught “Basquiat and the Bayou” at the Ogden Museum, another dynamite exhibit at the international contemporary art biennale, Prospect 3. My exposure to Basquiat’s work is limited to a few small paintings I saw in the past and I was not prepared for the room of stunning canvases I walked into. I am a sucker for large expressionist paintings (and triptychs) and, in two words, I was “blissed out”.
In an earlier blog from the NYC Outsider Art Fair, I talked about Basquiat’s love of Southern self-taught artist Sam Doyle, and the influence Doyle had on his own work. Although this exhibit tried to connect the dots between Basquiat and the Bayou, it was a pretty tenuous connection. The curator described the connection thus:
Basquiat and the Bayou explores a body of work representing Basquiat’s internal fight with the shadows of the American South, shaped by a long history of slavery, colonialism and imperialism. New Orleans is the crossroads where the Mississippi greets the Middle Passage, and shortly before his death, Basquiat visited the city. He knew the importance to his work of the South and New Orleans specifically. The selection of works in the present exhibition explores themes of geography, history, and cultural legacy in Basquiat’s work in a number of ways.
Let’s just say I wasn’t convinced of the connection. I can make this bold statement because this is my blog and I can say whatever I want. But, had I proposed such a connection in an academic paper, I know I would have been sent home to reconsider my thesis…
Whatever connection Basquiat had to the Bayou (or not) is somewhat irrelevant when you see his work. I will leave my analysis at that and instead show you images of his stunning canvases. I could have sold everything I owned and bought one of his pieces for $15,000 in the early days, but I didn’t. Instead, I make mortgage payments and raised a child. Last year a Basquiat painting sold at a Christie’s auction in NYC for $48.8 million. What’s that expression about hindsight?