Two Banksy tribute pieces to the pioneering street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat have appeared on a street near to the Barbican in London.
The work is timely, in just a few days time on 21 September a show celebrating the work of Basquiat will be opening at the Barbican. It’s the first large scale exhibition of his work in the UK and will feature a selection of works from museums and collections from around the world.
Now everyone does seem to get awfully excited these days when a new Banksy mural appears so it was no surprise to find the great and the good of the street art world out in force to see his latest piece. The last time a Banksy appeared in the city, it got covered up within 24 hours so it’s always worth getting there quick.
The main work features a stencilled police man and woman, recognisably Banksy, who appear to be conducting a stop and search on Basquiat. We know it’s him because the image of Basquiat faithfully recreated is an image that the artist himself painted back in 1982 as part of the piece ‘Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump‘. That piece features an abstract skeletal figure of a man with a dog, it’s a piece full of energy and was meant to be a self representation. It was also painted at a time when Basquiat was really starting to get courted in the art world and making a name for himself.
On the other side of the street meanwhile, a smaller piece, this time featuring a stencilled ferris wheel with people queuing to enter. The carriages have been replaced with stylised crowns, the symbol of Basquiat himself and now an iconic image in the street art and graffiti world. The crown, immortalised by Basquiat, can be found on many street pieces around the world, it symbolises excellence and the artist who uses it on their work is making a very public statement that they are a master of their craft.
So these pieces are full of symbolism and nods to the work of Basquiat who is often cited as an influence to many an artist. Basquiat, who died in 1988, was particularly active in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s in New York. That period more than any other is often cited as being a key influencer in the hearts and minds of young writers who saw the art in books and tried to copy it onto the walls of their home cities. This was certainly the case in Bristol where Banksy grew up.
And so with the exhibition just a few steps away the most iconic artist of this particular era chooses to create a pseudo collaboration in order to pay tribute to an artist many now cite as being the most influential of his. Basquiat’s art is certainly something which has stood the test of time and as the bold exhibition at the Barbican is expected to show, this acknowledgment of his work is only likely to grow.
The Banksy murals appeared on 17 September 2017 on either side of Golden Lane near the Barbican centre in London. ‘Basquiat Boom for Real‘ appears at the Barbican centre from 21 September 2017 to 28 January 2018.