Last week our friend Meghan emailed to say that she was going to catch one more viewing of the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit, Now’s the Time, before it left Toronto in a few days. She’s has a membership at the gallery and can bring along guests, so she invited us along. We met her during her lunch break on Thursday.
It was a beautiful day out, so we walked over. We ended up taking a different route than we usually do, which brought us up from the south, giving a great view of the gallery from the back, and the park that is next to it.
This route gives you a look at an important historic house in the city, The Grange. This Georgian mansion was built in 1817, and at that time it stood alone on a large piece of land, considerably far to the north-west of what was the city of Toronto then. The park is basically what at one time was the front yard of this house, and the pathway is what would have been its driveway.
Today, it is 12th oldest surviving building in the city and the oldest remaining brick house.
It was donated to the city by the family that owned it, the Boultons, and in 1902 became the first art museum in Toronto. In later years, the museum was expanded to eventually become the large structure that it is today, but The Grange is still connected and remains part of the gallery.
To the east of the park is the Ontario College of Art and Design University.
I was excited to take pictures of Basquiat’s art to show you, because before going over I checked and saw that many people had posted pictures online. However, I’m not sure how they got those shots because when I asked I was told, with no exception, that photography was not allowed. Then a couple of guards appeared to be following me around the gallery making sure I didn’t disobey. So sorry, no pictures of the art, but if you google ‘Basquiat at the AGO’ you’ll see what the show looked like.
↑ This is a picture of a picture of a picture taken of Basquiat in his studio in 1987 ↑
In a (very small) nutshell, Jean-Michel Basquiat, born in December of 1960, was an artist living in New York in the late 70s to the mid 80s. At one point he was homeless but was readily welcomed into the city’s art scene. His work was noticed by collectors after a photo of one of his paintings was printed in Artform Magazine in 1981 (when he was only 20). He met Andy Warhol and the two of them worked together in ’84 and ’85. He was friends with Madonna before she was famous, and had a role in Blondie’s video for Rapture. Debra Harry was the first person to buy one of his paintings.
Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988, at the young age of 27. If he hadn’t died he would only be 54 now, and would still be in prime art creating years.
In 2007, the cumulative value of his art was about 115 million US dollars. To give you an idea of how much it might be worth today, in 2012 one of his paintings sold for 16.3 million dollars.
What struck me most about the show is how very prolific he was in the 8 years he worked. Based on what I saw, he was extremely inspired and motivated to create art.
I’m happy that I got to see the show. I just read that it was a hit for the gallery and was the 14th most popular exhibit they’ve ever hosted.
Pictures in the gift shop were allowed …
After Meghan headed back to work, Nick and I walked around the gallery a little. We ended up in the room with the Henry Moore sculptures. The AGO apparently has the world’s largest collection of this British sculptor’s work.