Blushgrinning like a mug at the end of the Palladium sector, I headed towards the door full of mind-fire.
The art Guard stopped me.
Hey…If you need to leave but would like to see the gift shop~ they’re shooting something in there for a bit…but if you’re up for having a seat-“
He motioned back over my shoulder as the long version of Sheila E’s A Love Bizarre shook the room.
It was the way he said it.
I looked back at the Palladium room, up at the ceiling and laughed out loud.
“You’re asking …me… to take a seat in the Palladium…so I can see the gift shop? ” I asked incredulously. He nervously blushed.
“Well…I do want to see the gift shop…and I used to GO to the Palladium, so~”
Dude looked relieved that he’d scoped correctly.
“Oh! Well have a seat then~!” He motioned gracefully to the banquette.
Basquiat was wilding out in the exact terroir of Clubland that started siren songing me to Manhattan as a kid.
My Trinity was and lowkey forever terrestrially will be the Tunnel, The Limelight and The Palladium.
I landed at the Tunnel, velvet roped in by the original Angel holding the line against the dissidents outside of it. I was welcomed like the hinterlands clubland Princess I already was thanks to the Flats in Cleveland being a crazy house music outpost on the silk road strung through it from Chicago and Detroit back to New York & the insanity of Cincinnati’s gay club scene’s biggest export being wild drag performers making it big there. I hit NYC just in time to lose my mind all over the Palladium banquettes upstairs in its last years before the NYU dorm buyout debacle ended that era.
Basquiat was half a generation ahead of me. Fifteen years.
He… was the King of Arthead clubkids, running with all the wild women on my radar who were sending up flares from its underground like it was my fucking Oz.
That whole “Black Arthead kid doing whatever the fuck we want” vibration he sent up?
….We allllll took heed of. And we fucking stormed in.
The space he made… made the underground safe for us in a way it wasn’t before him, point-blank.
There was a moment walking through this phenomenal estate-curated show that had a video playing of this woman speaking.
“He knew Marcel Duchamp~what-What other ….”graffiti artist” knew who Marcel Duchamp was? ”
“Alot of Us did,” my inner child murmurred as I walked by before the woman gave the rest of her thoughts, knowing what she pejoratively meant by the spat out “graffiti artist ” moniker.
“Nobody-“she continued authoritatively.” None of them. But Jean Michel? He knew them all~”
“…and that right there is often their entire fucking problem… to this day, ” I laughed aloud.
That the family estate decided to do this show is one thing.
But leaving that take in spoke volumes.
Factoring that in may be a turnkey to many arthead adjacent person in its own way, and how they take it will be indicative of the arc of the tale between Basquiat and them as artheads.
Because what she meant and what she said … can speak to innocence on her part just as easily as willfull ignorance in looking at the capacities of artists of color via a lens that Caucasian artists would never be subjected to.
…Unless they’d had that criteria used against them as strawmen to justify their work not being validated by the Tower.
The misunderstanding of what the possibly actually loving take she took of him transmits ( because clearly the family would only include takes of friends & champions of Jean-Michel in this heartfelt exhibition) is truly what is at the root of so many in the art community believing they have to commodify, racialize & gimmick-ify any aspect of themselves that others them from the Ivory tower at the center of the scene in order to register.
It’s not the artists of color who end up having to dodge all kinds of jealous,over- competitive , racialized nonsense from colorless peers who are at fault in the dance. They may occasionally benefit from these arte brutalisme fetishising, trauma & poverty porn addicted, corrupt colonizer feverdream- like narratives of less-than-ism being alive and well as long as the powers that be still get to classify the brunt of a group as muck for them to dig for diamonds in.
But it’s those demanding that their fucked racial monolith waltzes of yore continue to be played and be seen as dogmatically de riguer across the arts who are truly at fault.
The Italian chick from upstate New York who publicly lived 60 years lying about being a Canadian Indian for clout now crying white woman tears when found out by Indigenous researchers who wanted her tale to be true more than anyone? Yes, Bonnie Saint whoarekidding was wrong …but so were the ones who only valued her voice once she got into redface and threw all the money in the world at her to contemptuously continue living the lie.
The extra layer of strife many Black , Indigenous, Asian & Latino artists have to elbow through is rooted in people of all colors taking the words that monolithic-thinking woman said as bond, when her statement actually showcased her unsuitability to be an authority sizing up black artists at all. But She… was of her time. It’s wasteful to browbeat her. Which is why I won’t name check her. But to correct the distorted lens now is important.
Seeing one shine bright like a diamond in lands you consciously left in disrepair would make a sane prospector believe for a motherload if they were really looking for gold, not go all Highlander there can be only one.
Those that get in that scarcity headscape looking at us for a quantifiable and commodifiable specialness solely if they retain the right to classify us as rare black swans and golden geese to profit off of look back at the damage their bloodline wrought and refuse to truly see.
The idea that there were and are Basquiats on every corner their ancestors devalued after pillaging, creative minds worthy of love, praise & money was anathema to the rest of their worldview.
As was the reality that Jean-Michel Basquiat was a black middle-class kid in the 60s and 70s. That they like to glaze over for the “homeless in Tompkins square park” origin tale… that was the only way alot of them were willing to accept him…as even fucking artistically possible.
If discovering his art history prowess made her dig her heels in believing he was an outlier instead of opening her up to the reality that she’d been operating blind, thank God.
Because it ensured his work got out to us coming up who needed to see ….Him. Doing all that.
Any person choosing to continue to think like that in a cultural landscape set up to ratify that decision and choosing to fight tooth and nail against any intent on ripping that false God/ logos down deserves to watch it burn from the inside.
Let’s hope most who did run into &think like that eventually saw the error of their ways.
…Often what makes a “Black Creative” special in a gatekeeper’s eyes is a wilfull ignorance of us being exposed to and able to easily comprehend the simplest, most rudimentary things across the arthead experience overall.
Alot of it is by design too.
That “what Black kid knows who Duchamp is?”vibe?
There’s suspicion in queries like that. & you can say she didn’t say that… but you’re choosing not to see it says more than you’re ready to deal with, perhaps.
We aren’t supposed to know any of that shit, not even have access to it.
Said as a kid who witnessed the hostility of supposedly liberal patrons at the sight of all the brown little faces running around Cleveland museum of art like we owned the place because the place nurtured it in us early on.
” That’s so…clever of you!…Who told you about xyz? Wow! Such intelligence is so…surprising!”
It’s a vibration that is perpetually infantilizing at its best, and infamously it makes money off the backs of artistic ability PR positioned as uncouth genius slavishly subject to gatekeepers at its worst.
Plantation crop energy as motivation dies hard.
Honestly , that’s what makes his family helming this show so important.
I’ve seen scores of Basquiat shows all over the planet.
New York, Miami, New Orleans, here- features, private collectors, false front shows full of fakes- you name it, it’s all been done in his name posthumously.
But this Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure show is the first one that I felt truly had a heart akin to the dude who has always vibed out to me from the far side of the veil.
I wasn’t even supposed to see this today. I came to court*/ accepted this current assignment to cover this… but I was scheduled to walk through it tomorrow.
But yesterday I walked by …and he told me to come today instead.
That they’d honor the ticket today.
He was right. They did.
This is one of those times. If you were wondering if the show was worth it since it is unconventionally staged?
If you’re nervous because it is put on by the estate instead of some rarified institution you’ve positioned as curator to what it is right for you to partake of…
Yes. It’s definitely worth it. & grow a pair lol.
But if I… have to tell you that you need to see the show…if you still need to be convinced… you’re at the wrong brook.
No, I mean…Like right now. Reading this.
The labor to help you get it is not mine. Spoonfeeding is no longer on energetic offer on arthead things like this. That mental bottlenecking is now 100% yours to bear.