Culture Snap: Basquiat’s King Pleasure

A new exhibition at the The Grand LA offers a rarely seen view into the late artist’s life.
King Pleasure poster. Courtesy of King Pleasure

Writer’s note: Lately I’ve been getting invited to shows and events that… well, would have made my teenage self do backflips. In an effort to share more cultural significance with you all, I’ll occasionally post “Snaps’” highlighting these events, shows or projects for you to attend, or at least get a glimpse of, no matter where you happen to be physically.

If you’re in L.A., or can get here in the next few weeks, you absolutely have to check out the new Basquiat exhibition at The Grand LA, “King Pleasure.” Curated by his sisters and nieces, “King Pleasure” is a collection of rarely before seen work by the iconic artist, from his sketchbook doodles to more traditional fine art from throughout his education, on display now in Los Angeles after a highly successful run back in New York City.

Charles the First, 1982 © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat Licensed by Artestar, New York.jpg

Whether you’ve been a fan since back when he was doing the work, or you’re just joining the team now, “King Pleasure” is going to present Jean-Michel in a way you’ve never seen before. Recreating both his studio and his childhood living room within the expansive four gallery show, the depth of his creativity is really on display here. While you’ll see countless works in his signature style, you’ll also learn his abilities reached far past what some consider to be more abstract art pieces.

A few weeks back I had the chance to visit the show before it opened with my friend, and an iconic artist in his own right, Joey Colombo. As we navigated through the expansive collection that ranged from actual doodles to theater-sized canvases, I know I speak for both of us when I say our eyes were opened to just how incredible Basquiat’s life and work truly were. From getting to step inside his living studio, to admiring the improvised canvas he’d create to get an idea out, the artistry on display extends far beyond the work most of us are already familiar with. And some of it is GIGANTIC. The final gallery, which holds the pieces he made for the Palladium, will likely make you feel smaller than any other canvas work you’ve seen in the past. When it clicks that someone the same size as you did all that, and not some giant, it’s stunning. And they’re each a single canvas!

Untitled (100 Yen), 1982 © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat Licensed by Artestar, New York.jpg

The show is about more than just the work though. It’s truly a celebration of his life. Complete with maps of New York City and Los Angeles pinpointing the places he grew up and found himself, as well as the hotspots he frequented, there’s a special type of intimacy here. You get to peruse his collection of keepsakes from around the world, and the notes in his sketchbook. I don’t know if I’ve seen ANY show offer this much insight into an artist’s being. You can see firsthand the things that were important to him. In the recreated studio you can feel his process. It’s really quite remarkable.

The New York Times wrote that the show “creates an emotional impact that’s hard to shake,” and TimeOut New York called it their “favorite exhibit of the year.”

For another actual artist’s perspective, Joey told me “[the] show was exciting and inspiring.. it got my creative juices flowing!” 

In addition to work by Basquiat, the show also has several of Warhol’s originals, including his iconic portrait of Jean-Michel, as well as those of his family—including Jeanine, this show’s curator.

On display through July, don’t miss your chance to experience these rarely and never before seen works, through the lens of his actual family. There’s over 200 of them, and there’s truly something for everybody. You can get your King Pleasure tickets here.

Photo Credit – The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

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