An exhibition of works by popular artist Jean-Michel Basquiat titled “Our Friend Jean,” opened this week at Howard University Gallery of Art through Oct. 24. It is the second stop on an HBCU tour.
The works of Basquiat, known as one of America’s most influential Neo-expressionism artists, include a lithograph called “The Offs” which was donated to the university by Patricia Turner Walters. The print was among Walters’ donation to Howard University from her coveted collection of African American art valued at more than $2.5 million.
“When I decided to give art to Howard, I debated as to whether I was going to give that piece. I knew Howard did not have anything by him, so I felt this would be a nice addition. Of course, he is the top of the line,” Walters said about Basquiat’s “The Offs.”
“I like this piece very much” Walters continued. “It took a while for the art world to come around to him, but there is a method to his madness. I knew his art would be appreciated more in the future than in the early years.”
“Our Friend, Jean” is a curated collection of 20-plus artworks on loan from collectors who knew Basquiat as a friend, lover, and collaborator. The collection was first curated and exhibited in 2019 by The Bishop Gallery in Basquiat’s hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y.
In addition to Howard University, the HBCU “Our Friend Jean” campus tour will make stops at Clark Atlanta University, Tennessee State University, Dillard University and Texas Southern University. Hampton University was the first stop on the tour.
“It’s such an honor to share this work with students who are at the same age Jean was when he was making his art,” said photographer Alexis Adler, who was Basquiat’s friend and roommate. “To expose students to this art will open up people’s minds.”
Adler is one of the curators that selected Basquiat pieces on the HBCU tour. At the Howard Gallery of Art, she shared remembrances and untold stories about her friendship with the artist. Adler still lives in the East Village of Manhattan in the same apartment that she moved in with Basquiat.
“He worked 24/7 on his art. We did not have any canvases. He painted on the walls, floors, doors – everywhere,” Adler said about how Basquiat’s approach his work. “He was hustling his art, but it was five times as hard being a Black American.”
Partners for the HBCU tour working with The Bishop Gallery are Hennessy, Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), and Group Black, the largest collective of Black-owned media and diverse creators. Also, The Bishop Gallery recently organized a gift of the first Jean-Michel Basquiat artwork to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Hours for the Howard University Gallery of Art (2455 6th St NW) are Monday-Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; and Saturday/Sunday: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. For more information visit the Gallery at www.art.howard.edu/gallery-art.