This time, it really is him. Ahead of the upcoming exhibition at Barbican Centre dedicated to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art, Banksy painted two new signature stencils on its walls. It was confirmed by the artist himself both on Instagram and the official website that the murals are indeed his own, and were accompanied by interesting commentary on the American artist and the venue his works will now go on display in. The news comes in only a couple of days after his artwork raised almost $280,000 for a cause against arms in the British capital.
“Major new Basquiat show opens at the Barbican - a place that is normally very keen to clean any graffiti from its walls.” This was how Banksy decided to introduce his two new stencils painted on the centre; and now, obviously, they have some graffiti on their walls. The first piece is a strong statement on the exhibition and possibly a mocking of it, as it depicts a Ferris wheel made up of the motif of a crown, a frequent in Basquiat’s work, while people queue up for a ticket at a booth underneath. Basquiat often used the crown to symbolize his personal heroes and icons, be it musicians, athletes or writers, but he also portrayed himself wearing the same crown as well.
In the second, larger piece painted by Banksy on the walls of Barbican centre, we see two police officers strip-searching a figure which quite clearly came from Basquiat’s famous 1982 painting Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump, as the dog looks on. This image is captioned: ”“Portrait of Basquiat being welcomed by the Metropolitan police – an (unofficial) collaboration with the new Basquiat show.” Is this the scenario that Basquiat would have encountered as a black artist had he stayed alive? Banksy seems to think so, as the exhibition is set to open, featuring more than 100 artworks including rare photographs, films and archive materials.
It will certainly be interesting to see what the Barbican will do with these Banksy pieces on its own structure, given the popularity and the market frenzy for the works of the most popular street artist in the world.
Featured image: New Banksy work via banksy.co.uk; Jean-Michel Basquiat - Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump, 1982, detail, via Wikimedia Commons. All images used for illustrative purposes only.