For the past few months, the Barbican has been host to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s first large-scale exhibition in the UK, featuring work spanning his whole working life. His premature death at the age of 27 is tragic, yet it is astounding what he managed to achieve in such a short space of time.
Upon entering the exhibition, the first room features some of his early work from the 1981 exhibition, New York/New Wave, which also included work by Andy Warhol, Nan Goldin and William Burroughs. On first impressions, those who aren’t familiar with Basquiat’s archetypal ‘naïve’ or ‘primitive’ style could be forgiven for thinking his art is something a child produce, a criticism all to often laid upon contemporary art. However, for me, art is about both aesthetics and meaning, and art in which technical ability is more obvious, isn’t necessarily more interesting. Basquiat was known to mix supposed ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture in his work, and as his career progressed, so too did its level of detail and scale.