A Show within a Show: “Basquiat and the Bayou Presented by The Helis Foundation”

“Jean-Michel said he had a surprise for me. And, he took me to see the Mississippi. It symbolized the bond between us, because of the slaves who traveled on it when coming through the Delta.”
—Ouattara Watts (2010)

“Basquiat and the Bayou Presented by The Helis Foundation” is a focused exhibition of eight to ten paintings and drawings by Jean‐Michel Basquiat that consider the work of this important artist in light of his relationship to the American South. The exhibition will be shown as part of “Prospect.3: Notes for Now,” October 25, 2014 through January 25, 2015 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. “Basquiat and the Bayou Presented by The Helis Foundation” embodies the core themes that will be echoed in Artistic Director Franklin Sirmans’ vision for Prospect.3, which will bring together several art historical investigations alongside contemporary artworks.

Franklin Sirmans has deep expertise and a longstanding interest in the work of Jean‐Michel Basquiat. In addition to writing an undergraduate thesis on the artist’s work, he served as a curatorial assistant and wrote the chronology for the Whitney Museum’s first retrospective in 1992. Sirmans was also co‐curator for the artist’s retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in 2005. “Basquiat and the Bayou Presented by The Helis Foundation” will be shown at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, one of the first museums to focus solely on Southern art. The Ogden houses an important collection of works by self‐taught and visionary artists that will be on view simultaneously, offering this important series of Basquiat’s works within a larger tradition of self‐taught artists and the many Native American, European, African, Caribbean and Latino traditions that permeate the culture of the Bayou.

A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition, with an essay by Sirmans introducing the work and themes for the exhibition, in addition to essays by preeminent scholars Robert Farris Thompson and Robert G. O’Meally. In collaboration with the exhibition, the Ogden will organize a lecture series and two‐day symposium to tease out the many themes found in Basquiat’s artwork.

“Basquiat and the Bayou Presented by The Helis Foundation” is made possible by The Helis Foundation. Additional support is contributed by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Edythe and Eli Broad Foundation.