I admit – I never actually laid my eyes on a piece of Jean-Michel Basquiat until 2015. And maybe the first time I really heard his name and it sticking in my head was because of a Jay-Z song. Hip-hop has been referencing art for years, but it never made an impression on me until I heard Hov dedicate an entire song to art references in “Picasso Baby”(2013). I had seen Basquiat’s image prior but never really made a real connection between the man and his art or had any care to do so.
Are you finished judging me? Okay, good. Now we can move on.
Ever since I saw “The Unknown Notebooks” exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Brooklyn Museum two years ago, I have been a fan. There’s just something about his child-like aesthetic and use of words in his pieces that I really connect with. I think he was brilliant and he is my favorite artist hands down.
Previous to this, my experience with art museums was limited to all the times growing up that I had to visit the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and my bi-annual trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Costume Institute’s exhibitions from 2010-2015.
Since living in Europe I have made exactly six visits to art museums, each one, bringing me a little closer to truly appreciating art more: The Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid to see a Vogue fashion photography exhibition, the Vatican Museum in Rome(for the Sistine Chapel of course), the Neues Museum in Berlin where I went primarily to see the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti, the Louvre Museum in Paris to basically see EVERYthing but in particular the Mona Lisa, the Prado Museum in Madrid(basically where a large number of important work of every famous Spanish artist is housed), and the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid where Pablo Picasso’s arguably most famous piece of work is housed, “Guernica”.
Before moving to Spain, I never considered myself an art museum type of person. When I travel I prefer to spend my time wandering around taking photos of architecture and landscapes – not a quiet museum with an overwhelming amount of information and pictures that seem to go in one ear and out the other. For me, many art museum paintings are more forgettable than memorable and they all seem to look-alike.
The art in many of these museums around the world are nothing but white faces, either nude or clothed in royal garb. I think this has had a lot to do with why I, in particular, and maybe many other minority millennials may not consider ourselves aficionados of that type of art. There’s no indication that people like us, who look like us, ever existed in these times which we all know isn’t true. I’ve had to accept the fact that this is what THEIR world looked like therefore that’s what they depicted in THEIR art.
I prefer a larger-than-life graffiti art of Biggie Smalls on the side of an abandoned Brooklyn warehouse more than most art hanging in these fancy, smancy museums any day. But hey, I am a child of hip-hop culture so this should be of no surprise.
But as you know with art, there are many styles and periods and one does not have to be a lover of them all. You can appreciate the effort and technique an artist has put into their work but not have to be their biggest fan.
Whether you’ve only heard of Art Basel because Jay & Bey went that one year or you happen hang out at Wynwood on Taco Tuesdays, one can become a lover of creative expression on canvas at any time in their lives.
In fact, I met an abuela here in Spain who didn’t start painting until she was 75 after her husband passed away and she’s freaking incredible. I mean, she’s L-E-G-I-T.
So, go ahead and visit that art exhibition at the art museum that you’ve been curious about and tap into the “I like art” type girl or boy who lies within.