Jean-Michel Basquiat Exhibit
Miller Institute for Contemporary Art
I designed this exhibit around the idea of introducing visitors to Jean-Michel Basquiat as a person, then as an artist.
Basquiat’s rise to fame and acquisition of critical acclaim was undoubtedly aided by, or even because of, his personality.  While selling postcards on the street without a home to his name, Basquiat met Andy Warhol, the already-famous artist, who decided to take Basquiat under his wing and make him famous.  Warhol put Basquiat on TV and gave him immense publicity.  Basquiat became a superstar overnight, not because the world saw his paintings, but because they saw him
My goal with this exhibit was to introduce Basquiat in the way he was introduced to the world in the 80s.  I’ve designed the experience to include an interaction with technology that allows the visitor to hear Basquiat talking while looking at his paintings in the exhibition.  This should make a valuable connection between the art and the artist. The visitor should leave wanting to see more of Basquiat's art or find out more about his relationship with Andy Warhol.
I broke down the introduction of Basquiat into environment, studio, and mind. As you walk further into the exhibit, you get a deeper look at Basquiat.

First, you get a taste of his environment. His area of New York City was run down and covered in graffiti.
To set that scene and produce intrigue, I’ve decided to have his graffiti under the name “SAMO” on the outside wall.

Then, once you enter, you’re in Basquiat’s studio. The walls are drywall, the floor is concrete, and there is random furniture about. An 80s TV set is there playing a documentary clip to explain the SAMO graffiti and introduce the visitor to
Basquiat and his relationship with Andy Warhol.

With how obsessed he was about becoming famous, it is certain that Basquiat would have a news story about him running on his TV. A radio on the front desk plays “Boléro” by Maurice Ravel,
the song Basquiat would listen to on repeat as he worked.

Then, in a Twilight-Zone-like fashion, you walk behind a wall and everything is black, except four paintings hanging on the wall under light. This takes importance away from the materiality of the space and places it solely on the artworks. A sound dome hangs within a radius of each piece. When you stand under it, a dim light shines down on the floor around you and an audio clip from one of Basquiat’s interviews plays, introducing you to something about his worldview. The experience should allow you to tie Basquiat's personality to your impression of the painting you are seeing.

The light on the ground grows dimmer and eventually goes out once the recording is done, so you know how long the audio clip is. Once you’ve seen all the pieces and heard Basquiat’s thoughts about life and his work, you may leave with the intention of going to The Andy Warhol Museum to find out more, seeing his art with a new perspective.

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