Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart) becomes the focal point of WCMA’s Reading Room, and the centerpiece of a series of conversations about police brutality, Black identity, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Basquiat painted Defacement after his friend and fellow artist Michael Stewart was beaten to death by New York City police in September 1983. Today when the reality of extrajudicial violence against Black Americans is at the forefront of national conversations, Defacement forces us to recognize the historical reality of these events. The presence of Basquiat’s painting also challenges us to explicitly engage with American contemporary culture and politics. By reading and rereading Basquiat’s work through various perspectives, we begin the process of understanding what this work meant to the artist when it was created and what it means today.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website