1. Jean-Michel Basquiat
Exhibitions: "Jean-Michel Basquiat" at Gagosian Gallery NYC (February 7 to April 6, 2013), "Jean-Michel Basquiat" at Gagosian Gallery Hong Kong (May 21 to August 10, 2013)
"It's about 80% anger," Jean-Michel Basquiat once said about his work, and this quote prefaced his spring exhibition of 59 paintings at Gagosian Gallery's 555 West 24th Street gallery location. Those who attended the opening were anything but angry, though, unless they were part of the gigantic line that went around the block. Most seemed happy to celebrate the work of an artist who changed art and the culture of New York City forever, and the exhibition was a sort of homecoming and memorial to the great artist.
Basquiat, even after his unfortunate, early death from a heroine overdose in 1988, at the age of 27-years-old, has a legacy that's multiplied, especially in the last five years. He's not just popular among rappers like Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz, who compare themselves to him and invoke his memory lyrically and artistically (earlier this month, Jay-Z bought a painting Swizz Beatz made of Basquiat, and last year, Jeffrey Deitch compared Swizz Beatz to Basquiat, which Swizz seems to agree with), the market shows his continued appeal. While sales numbers from the Gagosian show aren't known, in November 2012, one of his Untitled pieces (made in 1981) sold for $26,402,500 at Christie's, making it the fifth-highest selling piece at the record-breaking contemporary art auction. This past May, his Dustheads piece sold for almost double, $48.8 million, at Christie's.
His exhibition at Gagosian Gallery Hong Kong runs until August, and it is being met with an equal amount of enthusiasm. While putting a late artist on top of a list like this seems absurd, no one in the art world can disagree with the extreme depth of Basquiat's influence in 2013. Maybe it has something to do with Jay-Z rapping "It ain't hard to tell/I'm the new Jean-Michel," or maybe it has something to do with Jay repeating that line for six hours at Pace Gallery in Chelsea to some of the biggest players in the art world. Basquiat remains a timeless reminder of great talent and someone who the market favors immensely. Some of today's most influential cultural figures aspire to be him very badly, and they have reminded us constantly in 2013, so far. -Cedar Pasori