Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time

I recently visited the Basquiat retrospective titled “Now’s the Time” at the AGO. It’s not often that we get great exhibits in Toronto, so my boyfriend and I were reluctant to shell out the $25/per person admission fee. We decided to go on half-price Wednesday instead. What can I say, the older I get, the more frugal I am! I guess everyone else had the same idea because it was pretty crowded. We were both pleasantly surprised at the size and quality of this exhibit. Photos were not allowed in the exhibit, but I’m a ninja when it comes to prohibited photography, so I took what I could.

I was a fan of Basquiat’s pieces, but never really took the effort to find out who he was as an artist and why his pieces were important. I was simply enthralled by his style and energy of his paintings and graffiti, but didn’t know the purpose behind it all. This exhibit was very introspective and I gained a new appreciation for Jean-Michel Basquiat. His paintings and illustrations directly challenged American political and societal structures and remain prominent today, 27 years later.


“Believe it or not, I can actually draw.”  – Jean-Michel Basquiat


One of my favourite pieces was “Irony of a Negro Policeman”. On the surface, it looks as though a child scribbled away with crayons, but it is reflective of the social inequalities that are just as prevalent today as they were when this painting was created in 1981.


“Basquiat’s Irony of Negro Policeman is a sharp critique on members of his own race. By depicting a Negro policeman, he is making a conscious effort to show how African-Americans are controlled by the white majority in America. Basquiat found it utterly ironic that any African-American would be a policeman, working to enforce rules that were meant to enslave themselves. The figure in the paintings is a totalitarian black mass, with a mask-like face and hat resembling a cage. On the right of the painting are the words “Irony of Negro Policeman,” and to the bottom right of the panting is the word “Pawn,” clearly stating Basquiat’s opinion on the ridiculous position of a Negro Policeman.”



Go visit the Basquiat exhibit yourself at the AGO before it’s gone for good on May 10th!