Press Release  December 21, 2020

Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation

© Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hollywood Africans, 1983.

BOSTON — Organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation is the first major exhibition to chart Jean-Michel Basquiat’s relationship to early hip-hop culture. The exhibition uniquely positions the iconic artist among a community of peers who were also at the forefront of post-graffiti, a transformative moment in American art. Bringing 120 loans from around the world to Boston (including 25 by Basquiat), the exhibition features works by Basquiat’s friends and sometimes collaborators A-OneEROFab 5 FreddyFuturaKeith HaringKool KoorLA2Lady PinkLee QuiñonesRammellzee and Toxic—all artists whose conceptual approach was rooted in early hip-hop’s sophisticated treatment of language.

© 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

Toxic, Ransom Note: CEE, 1984.

In the 1980s, this group of “writers,” as they were known to each other, began experimenting across painting, sculpture, music, fashion and film, transitioning their practice from New York City’s walls and subway trains into studios and galleries. Remixing and sampling a boundless array of sources, from pop culture and art history to facets of their Black, Latinx, Caribbean and immigrant experiences, this generation demanded and commanded the attention of the art world and fueled new directions in fine art, design and music for decades to come. Writing the Future explores how their contributions catalyzed the rise of hip-hop culture as a global phenomenon. In addition, an installation adjacent to the exhibition highlights the impact of these artists’ legacies on Boston. A video and series of wall labels offering personal responses to select works of art were created by a group of local individuals convened through the Table of Voices, the MFA’s recently launched platform for embedding community perspectives into exhibition planning processes.

Collection of KAWS

Lee Quiñones, FAB 5, 1979.

“Basquiat was an artist of his time and, after his early death, an artist for all time. Writing the Future illuminates a less-explored aspect of his work and his mutually influential relationships with his peers,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director. “Basquiat and his friends knocked on the closed doors of the art world, the knock turned into a push and that push turned into a forceful toppling of long-established structures. We are proud to honor these artists and to celebrate hip-hop culture in all its forms, as a revolutionary movement that reaches and empowers young people in Boston and around the world.”

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