Cultural venture caribBEING—an organization that illuminates the global Caribbean experience through arts and culture—who is partaking in a one-month residency at Brooklyn Museum, is presenting the exhibition Life With Basquiat, comprised of rare Jean-Michael Basquiat photos from the collection of his friend and ex-lover, Alexis Adler. The exhibition—held in the organization’s mobile shipping container, caribBEING House—depicts an experimental period before Basquiat’s meteoric rise in the art world, when Adler lived with Basquiat on East 12th Street in 1979 and 1980, and is on view through August 28.
Adler’s photographs offer a rare glimpse into the private life of the storied New York painter and street artist, as told through photographs—including images of his high school drawings and graffiti art. Adler met Basquiat in 1979, after she graduated from Barnard with a degree in biology. He was 19; she was 23. During their brief time together, Basquiat used whatever materials he could find to create mixed-media art. He made ends meet by selling sweatshirts on the street. Adler’s collection is a testament to Basquiat’s artistic genius in its formative years. “Throughout his short life, Jean Michael was a prolific artist, working with whatever he could get his hands on to create,” Adler said. “I’m happy to share my collection with the community via caribBEING and Brooklyn Museum as a way to pay tribute to the brilliance of my dear friend.”
Basquiat rose to fame as an artist in his 20s before dying in 1988 at the age of 27. He was a Brooklyn native of Caribbean heritage; his family hails from Haiti and Puerto Rico. “We are thrilled to partner with the Brooklyn Museum to offer this special glimpse into the formative years of an artistic genius,” said Shelley Worrell, Founder of caribBEING. “We are looking forward to connecting with the community to share this chapter of Basquiat’s life story while also drawing attention to a great Caribbean-American artist.” Lauren Argentina Zelaya, Assistant Curator of Public Programs at the Brooklyn Museum, who was a key architect of this residency, states: “Jean-Michel Basquiat is obviously a beloved artist and cultural figure in Brooklyn and we’re excited to honor his Caribbean heritage as a part of our month long celebration of 50 years of the West Indian American Labor Day Parade,” Zelaya said. “He was a junior member of the museum as a young person, so this glimpse into his younger years is a perfect fit. We hope his legacy continues to inspire young artists and creatives who visit us at the museum.”
During the month of caribBEING’s exhibit, visitors are invited to the mobile art center caribBEING House in Brooklyn Museum’s Biergarten to share J’ouvert stories, contribute to a collective Caribbean Newsstand with artist Lizania Cruz in addition to viewing Adler’s collection. Visitors on Saturday afternoons can partake in special storytelling activations on Caribbean culture, Caribbean Artists, and J’Ouvert. Free and open to the public.