The Italian Almanac

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a paint by Basquiat.

Italian News / Art - November 16

Milan is playing host to Europe's biggest ever exhibition devoted to American contemporary art legend Jean-Michel Basquiat. The show at the city's Triennale Museum features 80 paintings and 30 drawings by Basquiat, who tragically died of a heroin overdose at the age of 28 in 1988.

"Although his life was brief, Basquiat said everything he wanted to say in it," commented Vittorio Sgarbi, a renowned art critic and former Culture Ministry undersecretary, at the exhibition's presentation. "There is not a trace of anything incomplete in his works".

Basquiat was born in 1960 in Brooklyn, New York to a Porto Rican mother and a Haitian father. He started out spraying graffiti and poetry on the walls of New York's slums, using the famous SAMO tag, which stood for Same Old s**t. He dropped out of high school before graduating and turned his hand to painting, forming a raw, innovative style that made use of many influences, including his Haitian roots.

Basquiat exhibited his works around New York with other emerging artists, including Keith Haring. He went on to become a lead figure in the Neo-expressionist movement of artists, whose works portrayed recognizable objects, in a bright, passionately emotional way. "With his graffiti he avenged the devastation unfettered capitalism wreaked on the city," said Sgarbi. "What started out with the transgression of graffiti on walls ended with the consecration of the avant-garde language of expression".

The exhibition, entitled the Jean-Michel Basquiat Show, runs at the Triennale Museum until January 28. It features pieces loaned from a number of top international galleries, including Barcelona's Museu d'Art Contemporanei, Marseilles' Musee d'Art Contemporain, Jerusalem's Israel Museum and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.