The Jean-Michel Basquiat show at the Barbican in London at the moment is kind of mid-sized and kind of mid-weight. It’s set over two floors. The upper floor, the one you go through first, is the early work, and the lower floor is the later stuff. The good thing here is there’s far more early stuff than later stuff, and it’s far more varied in terms of its scope, materials and approach. The downside though is that the late work downstairs is outnumbered, leading to the show feeling a bit lopsided. But that to some extent is down to a change in medium at this point in his career - bigger and bigger canvases to feed the ever more ravenous appetites of New York collectors, because as we know in many instances art is priced and sold by the square yard.
Still, there are plenty of gems here. One early drawing in particular caught my eye - this one entitled ‘Rene Ricard’ (the art critic who wrote the ‘Radiant Child’ article that boosted Basquiat):
And in the downstairs section, this drawing ‘Young Picasso - Old Picasso’, which raised a smile:
Details of opening times for the venue can be found here. Go and see it. We’ll probably have to wait another 10 or 15 years for another sizeable Basquiat show.