Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Basquiat-at-the-Brant Foundation reader

The Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit officially debuts today to the ticket-holding public over at the Brant Foundation, 421 E. Sixth St. between Avenue A and First Avenue.

Here's a recap of recent articles on the space and show...

Architectural Digest:

The Foundation’s new building, a former power substation on East 6th Street that was once the studio of contemporary artist Walter De Maria and was recently renovated by architects Gluckman Tang, is, indeed, the proper setting. “A lot of research was done to create the moment you experience when you enter the show’s second floor,” Foundation director Allison Brant adds.

This research paid off handsomely — the show, and the space, offer a breathtaking view into the artist’s world, underscoring a resonance between the artworks and their location that brings a new layer of meaning to our understanding of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

artnet News:

[I]t’s hard to ignore this luxurious setting’s disconnect from its immediate surrounding neighborhood — viewable through the floor-to-ceiling windows that punctuate the galleries — and the subject matter of Basquiat’s art itself, which frequently delved into issues of racism, poverty, inequity, and social injustice.

But none of that incongruity has dampened the enthusiasm around the show—and perhaps its free admission helps counter the reality that culture is increasingly governed by the über-wealthy. Basquiat, meanwhile, is about as popular as it gets when it comes to contemporary art audiences. Roughly 60 percent of the works in this 70-piece show are fresh off the blockbuster Basquiat survey that just wrapped up at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, which [Dieter] Buchhart also co-curated, and some have never been seen in New York before.

The New York Times:

Gluckman Tang has preserved the “bones” of the building — sturdy beige brick walls and sleek industrial staircases — and opened up rear-facing walls with windows that provide light and spectacular views of the neighborhood. The building includes four floors of exhibition space and a rooftop garden with a reflecting pool visible as a glittering skylight on the fourth floor. Nestled among old tenement buildings, the location feels very similar to Lafayette Anticipations in Paris, a new multistory foundation related to the nearby department store. Both institutions serve as emblems of the gentrification of former working- class neighborhoods, but also the proliferation of a new kind of museum.

Private collections have long histories — for instance, the Frick and the Morgan in New York — but also, at present, carry a double-edged meaning and purpose: They are private exhibition venues but also tax havens for the very rich. Mr. Brant was on the forefront of this phenomenon — both the private institution showcasing contemporary art and trouble with the IRS — when his foundation opened a decade ago across the street from his estate in Greenwich.

One of the arguments in support of the East Village space is that it offers free admission to see works that are rarely on view — although you have to make reservations, which are quickly becoming scarce. And the “free” admission to most of these private museums is the ultimate hidden-fee-economy tactic: We are all paying, in a variety of ways, to live in a system that supports colossal disparities of wealth. Museum admission might be free, but health care isn’t.

The Wall Street Journal:

Brant could have launched with a legacy show of his own trophy holdings, but he says the space’s proximity to Basquiat’s former stomping grounds compelled him to devote the opener to the neo-expressionist painter. Basquiat’s frenetic, poetic paintings of 1980s New York are getting more attention lately from both museums and the marketplace, with pieces selling at auction for as much as $110.5 million. That record-holder, an untitled skull painting from 1982 that’s owned by Japanese e-retailer Yusaku Maezawa, is in Brant’s show.

Other heavyweights include 1987’s Unbreakable, which has never been exhibited in New York, and 1983’s Hollywood Africans, which was lent by the Whitney Museum of American Art.


The Brant space in the East Village is not a commercial gallery but part of a private foundation, which may entitle it to tax benefits. Yet, to judge from the current exhibition, the new space lacks the public amenities we expect of not-for-profit institutions.

There is no catalogue for the current show, no brochure, and next to no information about individual artworks. Admission is free, but visitors are required to reserve tickets in advance; so far, according to its website, there is already a waiting list. How is Brant’s new space different than a commercial gallery? I don’t see any real difference, except that it comes enshrouded in vanity and self-promotion.

The exhibit runs through May 15. Waitlist tickets are available via this link.

Images via the Gluckman Tang Instagram account.

Previously on EV Grieve:
About that "giant-robot laboratory" on East Sixth Street

RIP Walter De Maria

What is your East Village dream home?

Walter De Maria's 'giant-robot laboratory' going for $25 million; inside is amazing as you'd expect

Here's what Peter Brant wants to do with his new exhibition space on East 6th Street

When the world's top collectors of Dom Pérignon rosé came to the East Village for dinner

Reader report: 421 E. 6th St. will house Peter M. Brant's personal art collection

Peter Brant's East 6th Street Outreach Tour 2015 continues

Peter Brant meets the neighbors

On 6th Street, the Brant Foundation's inaugural exhibit will feature the work of Basquiat

The EVG podcast: Al Diaz on BOMB1, SAMO© and Basquiat


Anonymous said...

70 pieces of art, but your timed-entry ticket comes with the proviso that after 45 minutes you have to leave the building. I don't know about anyone else, but "speed-reading" when applied to art appreciation is a contradiction in terms.

Anonymous said...

You should read the new Robert Perry book "The Burglar" to see how the art world can 'conspire' to 'make' artists.

It is generous for this foundation to make this available to the public, really, isn't 45 minutes more than enough?

XTC said...

Basquiat was in the right place at the right time with the right shtick. He's a great artist because he was marketed to be a great artist not because he was head and shoulders more talented than thousands of other artists. Smoke weed, do some coke, splash some colors around for a foundation, add some fluffed up stick figures, scribble some words and VOILA !

"Death means money"- Andy Warhol.

Anonymous said...

You are so right. Knew him when he was Samo and hustling like every other EV street artist. Warhol, mega-art hustler, waved his magic marketing wand over him and a legendary art market commodity was born.

Anonymous said...

I knew him too, and I also knew some of the other graffiti artists he hung out with here in the EV. They never considered him a graffiti artist, and many considered his work to be “scribble scrabble,” but they admired and appreciated his ability to break into the art world, which most of them were never able to do. Later on, they all admired his work, which he was able to transition from street art into what are now some of the most valuable and admired works of art on the planet.

As for the Warhol collaboration, it was probably the worst thing Basquiat ever did to his own carreer, which was on an upward trajectory until then, and which suddenly hit a wall after the art critics savaged his Warhol collaborations. He was dead a couple of years after their show, and that was when the prices of his artwork really took off.

I saw the show today at the old Robot Factory, and it is really well done. A lot of thought went into this exhibition, especially on the second floor, which has a giant wall with 16 large paintings hung in a 4 x 4 grid. The truth is that Basquiat was one of the first artists of color to break into the very top echelon of the art world. The fact that a billionaire has devoted an entire building to show his work in the neighborhood he called home is a very nice tribute.

XTC said...

@Anon 10:55- True that the Warhol/ Basquiat collaboration received a critical mauling but deservedly so. It wasn't however something that either of then could have not rebounded. Because of the way that they have been marketed Basquiat's works are certainly quite well known but that's due in part to the way people accept things unthinkingly and without a critical appraisal. The Brant show has less to do with a "nice tribute" and more to do with a vanity project and tax write off. He's not doing this for an altruistic reason.

Romare Bearden was showing his work in 1942, a good 40 years before Basquiat, and had show of his work in the Museum of Modern Art in 1971. The truth is very few artists break into that upper echelon.
How is that that William S. Burroughs, who also showed at PS 1 along with Basquiat, was overlooked in favor of Basquiat? WSB was a far more interesting and radical thinker, writer, and artist in my opinion.
They both had the street cred but an old junkie like WSB wasn't going to be promoted and marketed the way Basquiat could.

Anonymous said...

To the naysayers I say nay. To have a space like this in the EV will bring many benefits. I am one of the lucky ones with tickets to see the show. But I am just as interested in seeing what has been done with this wonderful old building that I have been walking past for the last 40 years.

Anonymous said...

Previous ramblings: "Let's see if they'll actually open to the public, pffft"
Current ramblings: "Free ticket only allows 45 minutes, pffft"
Can't wait to see future ramblings.