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Basquiat Unbound

The painter’s notebooks go on display for the first time in his home borough of Brooklyn

Author Nicholas Derenzo Photography Julio Donoso/Sygma/Corbis


The late, great painter Jean-Michel Basquiat spent much of his youth at the Brooklyn Museum, where his mother signed him up as a member. It was here, and in the graffitied streets outside, that the Andy Warhol protégé developed his omnivorous, neo-expressionist style. So it’s apt that this undersung institution—NYC’s second-largest museum—is hosting “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks.” Spanning 1980 to 1987, these colorful blotters are a window into the artist’s mind, a mesmerizing scrapbook of the years leading up to his untimely death by overdose at 27, in 1988. On public view for the first time, the 160 unbound pages writhe with snippets of poetry, scrawled observations and sketches that introduce favorite motifs: teepees, skeletons and crowns. If you can’t make it to the show, which runs through August 23, the notebooks are being collected for a companion book by Rizzoli, out this month. (April 3)

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