Jean Michel Basquiat Mural at the Barbican in London

Two pieces of street art by Banksy have appeared near the Barbican. They pay tribute to the pioneering street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Quickly they’ve collectively become known as the Banksy Basquiat.

The work is timely. In just a few days time 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. Featuring a selection of works from museums and collections from around the world.

The Banksy Mural on golden Lane near the barbican
Admirers looking at the new work from Banksy on Golden Lane in London

Banksy Mural at the Barbican

Now everyone does seem to get awfully excited these days when a new Banksy mural appears. It was no surprise therefore 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. With that in mind it’s always worth getting there quick.

The main work features a stencilled police man and woman. Recognisably by Banksy, they appear to be conducting a stop and search on Basquiat. We know it’s him because the image of Basquiat is from an image that the artist himself painted back in 1982. That was as part of the piece ‘Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump‘. The work 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 painted at a time when Basquiat was really starting to get courted in the art world and making a name for himself.

Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump tribute by Banksy
The Banksy piece is a homage to ‘Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump’

Banksy Basquiat

On the other side of the street meanwhile is a smaller piece. It shows 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. 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.

Banksy Ferris Wheel at the Barbican
The second Banksy mural featuring Basquiat’s iconic crown symbol

Boom for Real

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.

Self portrait of Basquiat being searched by Banksy’s police
Close up of mural
Searching policewoman
Searching policeman
Basquiat Dog
The piece by the sign to the Barbican exhibition hall
The second piece looking up towards Golden Lane
Detail of the ferris wheel booth
Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump by Jean-Michel Basquiat
‘Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump’ – Jean-Michael Basquiat (1982)

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