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Tamra Davis (American, born 1962). Still from A Conversation with Basquiat, 2006. 23 min., 22 sec. © Tamra Davis. Courtesy of the artist. By permission of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved. Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum

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Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks

Brooklyn-born artist Jean-Michel Basquiat filled numerous notebooks with poetry fragments, word play, sketches, and personal observations ranging from street life and popular culture to themes of race, class, and world history. The first major exhibition of the artist’s notebooks, Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks features 160 pages of these rarely seen documents, along with related works on paper and large-scale paintings.

A self-taught artist with encyclopedic and cross-cultural interests, Basquiat was influenced by comics, advertising, children’s sketches, Pop art, hip-hop, politics, and everyday life. Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks emphasizes the distinct interplay of text and images in Basquiat’s art, providing unprecedented insight into the importance of writing in the artist’s process. The notebook pages on display contain early renderings of iconic imagery—teepees, crowns, skeleton-like figures, and grimacing faces—that also appear throughout his large-scale works, as well as an early drawing related to his series of works titled Famous Negro Athletes.

Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks is organized by Dieter Buchhart, Guest Curator, with Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Associate Curator of Exhibitions, Brooklyn Museum. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

Tour Schedule with Dates

Brooklyn Museum, New York

April 3–August 23, 2015

High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia

February 28–May 29, 2016

Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida

August 12–October 23, 2016

Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio

January 22–April 23, 2017