The Project Has Begun.
On November 10, 2016, a number of Basquiat scholars, academics, art historians and curators convened at Williams College for a seminal talk about Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1983 painting Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart). The talk, “Basquiat's Defacement: Ambivalence, Identity and Black Lives Matter” featured Basquiat scholars Dr. Jordana Saggese (Caifornia College of the Arts), Franklin Sirmans (Pérez Museum) and creator/moderator Chaédria LaBouvier (Elle) in a nearly two hour dialogue and Q&A that culminated in bringing this most important work to the public eye, properly, for the first time. In its nearly four-month stay at the Williams College Museum of Art, Defacement was the subject of intensive public programming at Williams College, a tremendous collaboration lead by Nina Peleaz and Sonnet Coggins of WCMA that was experienced by thousands of viewers, students and other fellow institutions, such as Mass MoCa and the collaboration with the Nick Cave exhibition.
While this project is just beginning, its effects have been immediately felt. The talk and project were profiled in i-D Magazine, Dazed, Art Newspaper, The Berkshire Eagle and other outlets on both sides of the Atlantic. In the current political climate and the urgency of resistance, the Project has caught the attention of the art world, academic institutions and pop culture. The collaboration with Williams College culminated in a winter study class taught by LaBouvier (Basquiat’s Defacement: Conceptualism, Identity and Black Lives Matter) and its research (and talk) served as the academic foundation and model, respectively, for a recent Studio Museum of Harlem talk in collaboration with AfroPunk, "Bearing Witness as Protest".
As the Project grows, and collaborations and new features are announced, this website will be a place of update, dialogue and research. We feel this website is a key component in making this work accessible. Our goal is to publish original research on Defacement, thoroughly examine its untold history and what it means today, re-center Michael Stewart and his place in (art) history, and to collaborate with museums and institutions to bring the Project into the public and scholastic discourse through exhibition and thoughtful public programming. Please sign up for updates to take this journey with us and Basquiat's most important painting.