Jul 24, 2014

By Michael Kramer

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The ground-breaking work of Jean-Michel Basquiat is coming to Toronto.

The artist had a short life, but his exploration of New York street culture made an enduring mark.

Basquiat died in 1988 of a drug overdose.

He was 27.

Basquait received international recognition for creating powerful works that confronted issues of racism, politics and social hypocrisy.

An exhibition of his work is making its only Canadian stop at the Art Gallery of Ontario this winter, featuring more than 140 large-scale paintings and drawings from private collections and public museums across North America and Europe.

The young man wasn’t a street artist but his work was linked to the urban environment in his paintings and use of salvaged materials – such as abandoned doors and packing crates as canvases.

He was a friend of Andy Warhol and at age 21 – Basquiat’s  first solo show – sold out.

That was in 1982 and the sudden popularity gave him the chance to share ideas with David Bowie – and briefly date Madonna.

He also appeared on the cover of Time Magazine.

“Basquiat” opens at the AGO February 7th.

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