Sometimes I forget, or maybe take for granted just how much our city has to offer; bustling nightlife, shopping, restaurants, a small girl can always find something to do. We are also lucky enough to have world-renowned museums and art galleries which house some pretty awe inspiring exhibits. This past weekend I was reminded of that, as I finally had the chance to attend the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit “Now’s The Time” at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Let’s be clear, I am by no means an art connoisseur.
I enjoy artwork, I really do, but an art history course at Ryerson U is about the extent of my art knowledge. I had heard a lot of hype (some good, some not so good) surrounding the exhibit and was curious to see what it was about first hand. The exhibit showcases over 80 of Basquiat’s artworks, including large-scale paintings, sculptures, collages fixed to wooden beams and collaborations with the great Andy Warhol. For someone like myself, it all initially seemed a little intimidating. Expressing issues of racism, economic inequality and social tensions during the 1980’s New York art scene, I was worried I couldn’t possibly grasp the genius of Jean-Michel.
My senses were in over-drive, as I stared at each painting layered with meaning, almost able to hear the tormented Basquiat explaining societal wrongs to me; I could catch a glimpse of a black and white music video playing on a small screen, all while Martin Luther King Jr. proclaiming, “Now is the time!” faintly echoed on in the background.
So of course, I downloaded the audio tour app to my iPhone and played it aloud at the appropriately numbered pieces of artwork. Yes, I was that annoying girl, without any headphones, listening to art major’s interpretations on nearly every piece. I am extremely sorry to those that I may have offended, with my terrible art gallery etiquette. All jokes aside, I actually found the audio tour to be really helpful.
It allowed me to understand more about the artist’s inspirations, life and background information. I was able to appreciate underlying meanings of some works that I might have easily overlooked otherwise. As I continued through the maze of bold, colour-filled paintings, one more thought provoking than the last; I did my best to fit in with the well-dressed twenty-something’s that surrounded me.
Side step the security guards who kept urging that no photos were to be taken. All the while, secretly eavesdropping on the whispers of any onlookers I could get close enough to hear their point of view. Once I reached the end, I couldn’t help but start to retrace my steps and go back to take a second look at certain works and acknowledge what I had just witnessed.
While you can view a majority of the works online at the AGO’s website, save yourself $25 and about an hour or two of time, I would say make the trip anyways. You have until May 10th and personally speaking, I don’t think it is the same as scrolling through Google images.
There is something about the experience of seeing the painting in person, the materials used and being surrounded by all works at once, which allows you to truly appreciate the artist’s work. I hope you enjoy it and leave feeling as inspired as I did!
For more information about his work, bio, exclusive articles, and solo/group exhibitions please visit Artsy.net’s Basquiat page HERE!