11/2016, London: Since we announced the programming in early October, the response to this painting has been overwhelming, in the best way possible. In the three weeks that this site has been up, we've gotten messages from people that knew Michael Stewart, people that were moved by this painting in Toronto (its first North American showing ever) and wanted to know more and people that care deeply about the dialogues of racial and social justice, police brutality and Black Lives Matter in the art world and within America. The work to bring this to life has been tremendous and I am so deeply proud to have be a part of my life's work and to shepard this discourse into the larger public.
This painting is so deeply personal for me. From my early memories of the Basquiat drawings above our couch as a child, to my dream as a sophomore at Williams College to bring Basquiat to campus as an alumnae to the devastating experience of losing my only brother, Clinton Allen to police brutality. Clinton is simply at the center of everything that I do and though both he and I were not born when Michael Stewart died, they are inextricably linked. Indeed, Michael Stewart took his last breath on September 28th; Clinton took his first on September 29, 1987. I am honored to be his sister and quite simply, had he never been, Basquiat's Defacement: The Project would have never existed. And this is also why, as the intellectual engagement and discourse with this painting grows, we can never forget that at the heart of this, Michael Stewart was murdered by the very people that swore to protect him.
There is so much about this painting - how it came to be, who Michael Stewart was, what it meant in 1983 - that we simply do not know. I hope that the work that we're doing is a starting point to include this most important work in the most important dialogues of our time. After the talk, for the month of January I will be teaching a course at Williams College titled "Basquiat's Defacement: Conceptualism, Identity and Black Lives Matter". The work and scholarship on this painting is just beginning and will continue to be a part of my work for the next year and beyond. Thank you for joining us on this journey and for all that have helped and will help to bring this to life, thank you so much.
— Chaédria LaBouvier