Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Jean-Michel Basquiat: To Repel Ghosts, curated by Olivier Berggruen and on display in the rooms of the Memmo Foundation in Palazzo Ruspoli on Via del Corso in Rome, opened way back at the beginning of October 2008 and closed on Sunday, so yet again I'm guilty of dashing last minute to see a show before it closes, but thankfully most people on Via del Corso over lunchtime on Saturday were there to shop and the gallery was empty enough to enjoy the forty or so works without crowds.
Opening with a room dedicated to a series of black and white photographic portraits of the undeniably charismatic Basquiat taken by Michael Halsband (including the famous double portrait with Andy Warhol which depicts them as boxing sparring partners), the exhibition then moved more or less chronologically through Basquiat's all too brief artistic life - his obsession with mortality and lifelong referencing of Gray's Anatomy through skeletal figures and mask-like faces, the graffiti-style paintings and canvases dense with scrawled words, as well as collage and multi-paneled works, or even paintings on found doors or wooden panels.
Basquiat's controversial, yet all-important collaborations with Warhol were also represented by the inclusion of General Electric White with Warhol's trademark silkscreen addition of General Electric's logo to Basquiat's canvas. There was also another important collaboration with Italian artist Francesco Clemente - Numero cinque.
The final room included the haunting Self-Portrait (Plaid) from 1983 which has been plastered all over Palazzo Ruspoli for the last few months – the face to face meeting with the real painting was worth the price of the ticket alone. Wonderful!