Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat are brought together in a new exhibition highlighting their relevance in the digital age with their use of visual language.
The Crossing Lines exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria celebrates the two artist’s lives and work, citing their creations as more relevant now than ever in the age of the computer.
The exhibition has been co-curated by Dieter Buchhart and Anna Karina Hofbauer, together with the NGV’s curated Miranda Wallace.
Haring studied semiotics, and used a variety of repeating symbols and patterns in his artworks. Buchart says that this universal “alphabet” of Harings anticipated the global use of emojis and emoji culture – the culture in which Haring is seeing a revival and being appreciated by a whole new audience.
Of Basquiat, Buchart tells ABC News: “Basquiat develops these complex nets out of knowledge from all different kinds of sources, which he brought together to initiate new thinking processes in the viewer.”
He continues: “The fragmentation of knowledge, and the idea of life as a cut-up, as William S Burroughs would put it, is kind of the baby of our times.”
Haring and Basquiat met in real-life where their art intersected: on the street. Both experimented with graffiti, murals and Street Art. Basquiat starting out with his now-infamous tag ‘SAMO’, and Haring with murals of symbols, patterns and figures including his ‘radiant baby’ and ‘crown’ motifs.
They soon became friends and friendly rivals. Both were highly politicized artists and bonded over their shared beliefs, while sharing many of the same friendship groups including Andy Warhol and Madonna.
In their short careers – both spanning little more than a decade – their output was remarkable, as is demonstrated in this exhibition. The show starts with their Street Art and graffiti (one of Haring’s murals has been specifically recreated for the exhibition), and continues chronologically through their collaborations with Andy Warhol, their self-portraits, their experiments with cut-up and collage (similar to our copy and paste culture), and ends with their more political works.
One of the show’s final pieces is Haring’s tribute to Basquiat following his friend’s death. A Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat is a triangle-shaped canvas bearing a memorial ‘cairn’ of crowns and the copyright icon, which were among Basquiat’s favourite symbols.
The cultural critic and art writer Carlo McCormick, a contemporary and friend of both artists, told ABC News: “I think they’d be really happy to be [shown] together. There was so much love and respect between them.”
The Crossing Lines exhibition will run at the New Gallery of Victoria until 13 April.