Seattle Art Museum Downtown
March 21–Aug 13, Mondays and Wednesdays–Sundays
Recommended by Emily Pothast
In the late 1970s, Jean-Michel Basquiat began his career as a street artist, tagging the Lower East Side of Manhattan as part of the enigmatic duo SAMO. A decade later, he was exhibiting internationally, as wealthy collectors clamored after the urban authenticity they perceived in his work. His tragically short life—Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988 at the age of 27—only heightened this appeal, and in May 2017, an untitled 1982 painting of a skull set a new auction record for any American artist when it sold for $110.5 million. This painting is currently hanging at the Seattle Art Museum. As Charles Mudede has pointed out, its proximity to Seattle's currently inflated housing market is apt. Basquiat was a brilliant painter, but his brilliance is utterly captive to a system that buys and sells the products of human creativity as assets. Thirty years after the artist's death, this skull is still screaming.