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World premiere exhibition of works by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat opens
Installation view of Keith Haring’s Prophets of Rage, 1988 inside Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines at NGV International, 1 December 2019 – 11 April 2020 © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York © Keith Haring Foundation. Photo: Tom Ross.

MELBOURNE.- In an unprecedented, world premiere exhibition, the National Gallery of Victoria is presenting the work of two of the most significant and influential artists of the late twentieth century in Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines. Exclusive to Melbourne, the exhibition offers new and fascinating insights into their unique visual languages and reveals, for the first time, the many intersections between their lives, practices and ideas.

Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV, said: ‘With diverse works on loan from public and private collections world-wide, the Crossing Lines exhibition offers an outstanding platform to explore the formidable works of two of the finest artists to emerge from New York City in the 1980s. The works of Haring and Basquiat remain so impactful as they demonstrate a complete mastering of how to use visual language and communicate bold statements on politics, race and social justice.”

Dr. Dieter Buchhart, respected art historian and guest curator of Crossing Lines, said: “Haring and Basquiat are among the most influential artists of not only the 1980s but more broadly, of our time and relevant to global youth culture.”

“While Basquiat anticipated today’s ‘always-on’ culture of communication and contemporary knowledge spaces, Haring foreshadowed emojis with his image-word alphabet,” continued Buchhart. “This universal system of communication remains a positive, humanistic meme in the collective struggle against ignorance, fear and silence.”

A selection of public programs designed to offer fresh perspectives on the work of Haring and Basquiat is also being presented, including the NGV Gala on 30 November, marking the opening night of the exhibition.

Keith Haring (American 1958–90) and Jean-Michel Basquiat (American 1960–88) changed the art world of the 1980s through their idiosyncratic imagery, radical ideas and complex socio-political commentary, creating an indelible legacy that continues to influence contemporary visual art and popular culture today. Each artist is acclaimed for his distinctive visual language, employing signs, symbols and words to convey strong social and political messages in unconventional ways.

Crossing Lines surveys each artist’s tragically short, yet prolific career through more than 200 artworks, including works created in public spaces, painting, sculpture, objects, works on paper, photographs and more, providing local and international audiences with a comprehensive insight into these influential artists’ careers.

Beginning with examples of Haring and Basquiat’s work from the streets and subway stations of New York City, the exhibition presents early collaborations and highlights from each artist’s breakthrough exhibitions alongside many of their most acclaimed artworks, including paintings featuring Basquiat’s crown and head motifs, and Haring’s iconic ‘radiant baby’ and dancing figures. Examining symbols, iconography and their incomparable styles, the exhibition also examines the creative circles they moved in alongside icons such as Andy Warhol, Madonna and Grace Jones.

Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat: Crossing Lines has been curated for the NGV by Dr Dieter Buchhart, art historian and curator of recent monographic exhibitions on both Jean-Michel Basquiat (Fondation Louis Vuitton, Barbican Art Gallery) and Keith Haring (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris).

An accompanying publication features an essay by Dr Dieter Buchhart, as well as additional contributions by the exhibition’s Special Advisor Larry Warsh, author and academic Ricardo Montez, NGV curator Myles Russell-Cook and journalist Linda Yablonsky. Along with a republication of Rene Ricard’s seminal 1981 text on Haring and Basquiat, this richly illustrated book also features interviews with North American contributors: artists Jenny Holzer and George Condo, curator Diego Cortez, and performer Patti Astor.

Water Wall tribute
Celebrating 35 years since Haring painted a temporary mural on the NGV Water Wall – and coinciding with the exhibition – the NGV has reimagined the artist’s untitled 1984 mural with a striking vinyl graphic displayed at the site of the original artwork. Based on Haring’s original design, the vinyl graphic pays tribute to a significant moment in Melbourne’s cultural history, when Haring was invited to paint a temporary mural on the iconic city landmark.

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