The Barbican Center in London, the most important theatrical center in Europe, on Thursday, September 21, inaugurated an exhibition dedicated to US artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. “Basquiat: Boom for Real,” which will last until January 28, 2018, coincides with thirty years of death, at 27 years of heroin overdose, of one of the most iconic figures of the 1970s and 1980s and, by extension, throughout the 20th century.
Basquiat, along with Keith Haring, gave dignity graffiti and writing engaging enthusiasts and admirers to bring this movement from metropolitan streets in New York to art galleries. And could one of the “street” icons of the new millennium, do not leave an irreverent comment on this initiative? Absolutely not, so street artist Banksy is back in action in his home country with two new murales, a provocation in his style, to respond to the exhibition promoted by the Barbican Center.
On his Instagram account, the anonymous Bristol’s artist has posted three pictures accompanied by brief but incisive comments. Reminders to SAMO (a juvenile pseudonym of Basquiat during the era of graffiti) are obvious. In the first work we can see a queue of people waiting to ride on a panoramic wheel with seats replaced with a recurring symbol in the art of the American artist, the crown. Below, a caption quite eloquent, referring to the Barbican: «A place that is normally very keen to clean any graffiti from its walls».
The allusion that puts a general reflection on street art is just the different treatment of graffiti in and out of museums.
In fact, tn the second work, the biggest one, we see is the protagonist of the famous 1982 painting “Boy and Dog in Johnnypump” while being searched by two agents of the London metropolitan police. The man, interpreted as a portrait of the same Basquiat, emphasizes the treatment that the artist would have today if he was just a black guy and not the international celebrity on whose museums and collectors are making money. Here too, on Instagram, a pungent comment: «An (unofficial) collaboration with the new Basquiat show».