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In a large reinstallation of the museum’s fourth-floor gallery, Warhol and Basquiat In Focus: Works from the Permanent Collection presents for the first time the museum’s near-entire holdings of artworks and ephemera related to Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988), the groundbreaking young painter who became a close friend and collaborator to Warhol in the 1980s. This presentation features photographs, paintings, sculptures, and archival material left behind in Warhol’s studio after his death in 1987, chronicling the short but vibrant friendship and working relationship the artists shared from 1982 to 1986.
The installation showcases the mutual trust, shared inspirations, and political concerns of Warhol and Basquiat’s collaborative works in the 1980s. The display includes Ten Punching Bags (The Last Supper), a monumental sculpture that probes issues of Catholic guilt and the impact of the AIDS epidemic. Untitled Collaboration Sculpture, created with Italian painter Francisco Clemente, references the murder of artist Michael Stewart, police brutality, and America’s history of racial injustice. Also featured are Warhol and Basquiat’s collaborative paintings, which debuted to mixed reviews but reveal the balance they achieved between their disparate styles: Warhol’s advertisement logos and Basquiat’s neo-expressionist strokes and original mark-making. Through this new interpretation of their shared work, the installation reveals that it was, in the end, Basquiat, a young protégée, who gave Warhol’s late career a rebirth.
The installation also speaks to an era of socio-political upheaval and loss in the 1980s, as a dynamic arts community grappled with the early days of the AIDS crisis and unchecked police violence. Forty years later these themes still resonate, mirroring the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and renewed calls for racial justice in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Antwon Rose, and so many other Black Americans.