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Seeing Loud | Basquiat & Music | 1st Major Exhibition @ MMFA

Seeing Loud | Basquiat & Music | 1st Major Exhibition @ MMFA


From unknown New York City graffiti artist to internationally acclaimed Neo-Expressionist painter in just a couple of years, before his untimely passing in 1988 at the age of 27, Jean-Michel Basquiat is no longer a real person but a legend.


To highlight his enduring legacy, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) will present Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music – from October 15, 2022, to February 19, 2023 – the first large-scale exhibition devoted to the role of music in the work of one of the rock stars of the art world of the late 20th century.

Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music | Photo MMFA

Organized in collaboration with the Musée de la musique de la Philharmonie de Paris, this unique exposition displays over 100 works by Basquiat along with numerous sound clips, film footage, archival documents and notebooks. The ensemble provides an in-depth look at the powerful connections between music and the artist’s life and work, and the musicians who inspired him, from Beethoven to Charlie Parker.

The tailor-made augmented reality app Basquiat and Music reveals Bunk Johnson as one of three great jazz trumpeters featured in the painting King Zulu (1986).

Beginning with an exploration of the music that shaped Basquiat’s underground New York in the 1970s and 1980s, the exhibition sheds new light on his career as a performer and musician, notably with the band Gray, of which he was a founding member.

The band Gray performing at Hurrah (1979) | Photo Nicholas Taylor

It also looks at the compositional techniques of his paintings as they relate to music, and references his ties to particular record labels, musicians, cultures and sounds, thus providing a comprehensive picture of the different registers through which music functioned in his work.

In Anybody Speaking Words (1982), ladders and arrows go both up and down near the figure’s torso to suggest the vocal range of an opera singer.

The Brooklyn son of a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat was a music lover to his core. He possessed an impressive collection of more than 3,000 records, and musical instruments abound in his œuvre, as do references to a range of genres, including opera, classical, jazz, bebop, and hip-hop.

Basquiat DJing for Eric Goode’s birthday party at Area (1984) | Photo Ben Buchanan

For a socially engaged artist like Basquiat, music was a message about the transatlantic migration of cultural forms and the brutal reality of being a Black artist facing racism. His engagement with the African diaspora and the politics of race in the United States is one of the main threads of the exhibition. Anchoring his œuvre in our time, it considers how these works relate to contemporary culture.

Hollywood Africans (1983) features images and texts relating to stereotypes of African Americans in the entertainment industry. Phrases allude to the limited roles available to black actors in old Hollywood movies.

A multidisciplinary and prolific artist, Basquiat collaborated on several videos – such as guest appearing in Blondie’s Rapture – produced an album and designed the flyers announcing musical performances, by groups like DNA, Lounge Lizards or Mofungo, in New York at a time when the city witnessed one of the most creative periods in its musical history.

From right to left: Madonna, Basquiat, Toxic and Easy Gee at the Fun Gallery in Manhattan’s East Village (1982-83)

Basquiat Block Party!

To celebrate this new exhibition, on October 28, the MMFA is organizing an exciting Friday evening — with a New York-inspired street food station, bar service, photobooth and creative workshop — inspired by the themes at the heart of Seeing Loud.

See Also

DC Shoes Basquiat Collection

Come out and groove to the sounds of vinyl DJ Solespin, who will plunge you into an electrifying atmosphere, with a dance battle performance organized by the Forward Movements Company, set to an old-school hip-hop vibe. So put on your favourite casual outfit and your best sneakers and go and show off your moves on the illuminated dance floor!

Seeing Loud | Basquiat & Music | 1st Major Exhibition @ MMFA 7
Forward Movements

Here is what you need to know about Seeing Loud

Date: October 15, 2022 – February 19, 2023
Location: MMFA Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion | 1380 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, QC H3G 1J5
Tickets: Available for purchase online at mbam.qc.ca/en/tickets:
$24 Ages 31 and up | $16 Ages 21 to 30 | $0 Ages 6 to 20

Block Party
Date: Friday, October 28, 2022, from 8 PM to Midnight
Location: MMFA Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion | 1380 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, QC H3G 1J5
Tickets: Available for purchase online at mbam.qc.ca/en/activities/basquiat-block-party: $15 advance purchase | $20 at the door | Free for Museum members

Facebook: @mbamtl
Instagram: @mbamtl
Twitter: @mbamtl
Website: mbam.qc.ca/en

Featured image credit: Brad Branson (1984)

NEXT: 888 | Networking Evening & Masked Ball Afterparty @ La Voûte

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