Baguettes, Black Coffee, and Four Floors of Jean-Michel Basquiat

January 16, 2019
- Extracurriculars
Author - Katherine Fox

My familiarity with the French lexicon is limited at best. Bonjour, baguette, croissant, merci, and the ever-important je ne parle pas francais.

Lucky for me, the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition on display within the halls of the Louis Vuitton Foundation building was also presented in English.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation building is anything but subtle, which I suppose is in line with many of the art-centric institutions in Paris. It was, after all, designed by Frank Gehry. I paid the museum a visit for the first time a few weeks back while in Paris; a visit that just so happened to line up with a massive Basquiat exhibit.

It’s hard not to wonder how Jean-Michel Basquiat would feel about having an expansive collection of his work on display within the Louis Vuitton Foundation. It’s an interesting mashup that can’t help but feel like a questionable dichotomy of artistic endeavors, even if one of his works did sell for a cool $45 million last year.

But those particularities of context quickly fell to the wayside the second I entered the building. My ticket granted me entry at 9 in the morning, which usually would result in a morning fog ruled by bleary eyes. Viewing Basquiat’s work gave me the same jolt of energy that comes with four cups of coffee.

Spanning four floors, the exhibit takes viewers through the painter’s career chronologically, focusing on 120 works from 1980 to 1988. From the punchy pieces born from his collaborations with Andy Warhol to rarely seen paintings that speak directly to Basquiat’s penchant for reflection on identity and race, each wing dedicated to his work offered up a commentary of both the past and present.

Basquiat’s career ended twenty years ago but his work is as relevant as ever. His ability to transcend time is a product of not only his talent and artistic influence, but also of the jarring sense of similarity between now and then.

120 works, four floors, and two hours later, I still have a tad bit of insecurity when it comes to the pronunciation of his name, but one thing is for sure: four floors certainly wasn’t enough. I want more.