Basquiat self portraits

Jean Michel Basquiat Exhibition in Vienna

A day at the Albertina Museum

A few days ago I took the opportunity to break away from my office and once again see a few exhibitions. Especially the long-awaited one by Jean-Michel Basquiat. When I first saw an image of one of his works some 20 years ago, it struck me like a lightning bolt. Shortly after that I was in Venice with my son, who was very young at the time, and there was a Basquiat exhibition, but I was afraid it wasn’t suitable for a toddler, so I didn’t. And now the time had finally come: a Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition in Vienna’s Albertina.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Exhibition in Vienna

There are exhibitions that give me impulses and make me want to paint myself. However, Basquiat is of such greatness that afterward, I ask myself whether it makes any sense at all to continue painting.

Jean-Michel Basquiat painting with knight

In case anyone missed it: In May 2017, a painting of Basquiat was sold at Sotheby’s for US$110 million, making it the most expensive modern painting.

big Basquiat painting

In short, it is a highly recommended exhibition, reflecting various phases of his life and work, well-curated, documented and hung, and accordingly impressive. It never ceases to amaze me how artists like him – he was only 27 years old – can create so much great art in their short lives. His drug use, which was ultimately his undoing, can only partially explain this.

Jean-Michel Basquiat object

I was particularly impressed by his self-portraits, which reflect his artistic ability in a concentrated manner.

Basquiat self portraits


In the same museum, there are 2 other exhibitions at the same time and one is something extraordinary – pictures from the Impressionists such as Monet to Cezanne, Giacometti, Blaue Reiter, Max Ernst, and his Surrealist circle to Picasso. They come from a private collector (Herbert Batliner collection) and some of the work is outstanding.

A question that has plagued me for ages, however, is why, not only with the Impressionists but even with Picasso, such pompous, totally inappropriate frames are used.

It is said that one can argue about taste and that is certainly true, only in this case can I not recognize the taste.

pablo picasso painting

related: After visiting a Gerhard Richter exhibition



25 responses to “Jean Michel Basquiat Exhibition in Vienna”

  1. Mich avatar

    A great collection of Basquiat paintings assembled here. Yes, what a remarkable talent, his death at 27 from a drug overdose was such a tragic loss.
    I sure agree with you about ugly frames – the one around the Picasso is hideous indeed and a grotesque distraction from the painting.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you! Yes, the frame is too dominant and takes the power out of the picture. You can see it particularly well if you see the picture next to each other with and without a frame.

  2. Karlheinz W. Gernholz avatar

    The picture of Picasso has something frivolous about it. The frame fits it in my opinion. It is, like the picture, somewhat decadent. I like it.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      In my opinion, the frame is too dominant and robs the image of its strength.

      1. Karlheinz W. Gernholz avatar

        Do we know if Picasso wanted this frame? Did he choose it?

      2. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

        I don’t think so. If we look at exhibitions from the time Picasso was still alive we do not see such frames. And it is not only Picasso – so many of the Impressionist paintings look the same. Some frames just kill the painting.

  3. swabby429 avatar

    Basquiat profited from being in the right place at the right time and being recognized by discerning viewers. He was a fortunate, talented artist who pushed his luck too far. Such is the fate of many talented celebrities.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Yes, indeed. Well, one can not do such work by living on herbal tea and veggies. I never knew he was working this hard.

      1. swabby429 avatar

        Yes, burning the candle at both ends is unwise.

  4. M. Lee Keena avatar

    His work is quite incredible. I had never heard of him before your post.

    Thank you.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      So I am happy I wrote this post 🙂 You know he was a close friend of Andy Warhol?

      1. M. Lee Keena avatar

        No, I did not know they were friends. I do love his use of color and expression, just exquisite.

  5. Mike and Kellye Hefner avatar

    How fantastic that you got to view this exhibition. I would love to see the works of any of those artists – and yours, of course. I agree with you 100% on the frame issue. The one in the last photo actually detracts from the painting.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! I deserved it as I have been patiently waiting soon long 🙂


    I completely agree about “such pompous, totally inappropriate frames”. What are they thinking???

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Perhaps one of the considerations is this: now that I have bought such an expensive picture, it should now be put in an expensive-looking frame.

  7. Martha Kennedy avatar

    I like the irony in the fancy frames. To me they come from the world that surrounded the artists who were already somewhere else, if that makes sense. Basquiat was a force, really amazing artist. And do you really think that because, say, Basquiat painted what you would like to paint that you should stop? Kandinsky painted what I can never and would never paint, but a reproduction of his work hangs in my studio near Palden Lamo Through the eye in my heart I see that they and my work are the same. I’m sure no one else would see it, but I know. We just have different eyes, hands, lives, worlds.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      No, of course I won’t stop painting – I’ve only gotten 20 cm smaller 🙂 But only temporarily.
      Yes, it is always confusing how a work of art by a good painter affects us. Maybe it’s like falling in love with someone.

      1. Martha Kennedy avatar

        I think you’re right. It IS like falling in love with someone. I know when I saw Picasso’s linocuts, I fell in love. And Goethe…

  8. artsofmay avatar

    Thanks for the excellent post. I was fortunate to see Basquiat’s work a few years ago in Toronto. Very powerful and moving.

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you! Yes indeed. I think artists feel even more impressed by his work. In addition to the admiration, one always asks oneself how he came to this conclusion.

  9. JMN avatar

    I share your admiration for Basquiat. HIs work stops me in my tracks.

  10. Migy avatar

    Oh, I really liked Jean-Michel Basquiat’s works while at university! 😀
    Thank you for the post! 🙂

    1. Zettl Fine Arts avatar

      Thank you very much! Glad you like his works too.

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