Boom for Real

Photo of Basquiat wearing an Adidas tshirt, suit and football helmet

The first large-scale exhibition in the UK of the work of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960—1988)

Discover the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the pioneering prodigy of the 1980s downtown New York art scene. This unprecedented exhibition brings together an outstanding selection of more than 100 works from international museums and private collections. Engage in the explosive creativity of Basquiat who worked with Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Blondie, among others. Featuring rare film, photography and archive material, the show captures the spirit of this self-taught artist, poet, DJ and musician whose influence, since his death at 27 in 1988, has been enormous.

Downloadable Large Print Exhibition Guide

Exhibition Interview Transcript

This exhibition has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the Basquiat Exhibition Circle and our sponsors, NET-A-PORTER, PHILLIPS and tp bennett. The public programme is funded by Cockayne Grants for the Arts, a donor-advised fund of the London Community Foundation. The development of this exhibition was supported in part by an Art Fund Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Research Grant. Outdoor Media Partner: Jack Arts. Hotel partner: ACE Hotels.


‘An exhilarating glimpse behind the myth‘


Photo of poet Jack Miguel in Basquiat

Watch: Poet Jack Miguel performs 'Casino'

Poet and rapper Jack Miguel performs his piece Casino, inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat's work, in the 'Self-Portrait' room of Basquiat: Boom for Real.

Photo of two people looking at Basquiat painting

Basquiat: A 360 Exhibition Tour

Look around the gallery in our 360 video as curator Eleanor Nairne and Gus Casely-Hayford take you on a private tour, exploring the influences Basquiat brought into his paintings. 

Photo of curator Diego Cortez

Barbican Meets: Diego Cortez

Curator Diego Cortez shares his reflections on knowing and working with Basquiat and guides us around the exhibition's partial recreation of Basquiat's first exhibition, 'New York / New Wave' at PS1, curated by Cortez in 1981.

Photo of Basquiat's studio

Listen: On Basquiat's Playlist

Music was integral to Basquiat’s creative process, seeping into the canvas itself as more than just something to listen to in the studio.

From Prince to David Byrne, Donna Summer to Bach, listen to the music that might have been on his playlist. 

photo of black top in the art gallery

Watch: Barbican Sessions- Black Top


In the first of our Barbican Sessions, Black Top, the duo of multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson and pianist Pat Thomas, perform a live concert after hours in our 'Basquiat: Boom for Real' exhibition.

With thanks

Sponsored by

Additional support

Public programme support

Cockayne Logo

Official Hotel Partner

My Basquiat: Tours by Young Barbican members

Saturdays at 6pm and 7pm join our guides for their unique perspective on Basquiat’s life and work and what he means to young people today.

Saturday 13 January

6pm: Bianca's tour

How does language appear on the canvas? Are we reading or looking when we see letters painted against shapes? Ellen's tour will explore how Basquiat used words in his work, which shifted from street graffiti to notebooks to painting. The tour will unearth the influences visible in Boom for Real, such as the Beat generation, lexicon encyclopaedias and hip-hop. 

7pm: Clara's tour

Clara’s tour is a translation of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting “Ishtar” into a jazz composition performed with Nubya Garcia, Jake Long, Lyle Bartot, and Twm Dylan. She explores Basquiat’s complex involvement with jazz and his ability of referencing between paintings, a practice comparable to the exchange of ‘licks’ between jazz musicians.


Ellen is based in London, she works in an art gallery during the day, organises literary events and writes short fiction by night. Basquiat's work came into her life during her MA in Issues in Modern Culture, where she wrote her thesis on the artist's use of language in the context of Beat literature.

Clara is a composer, producer, engineer, and electronic musician based in London. She discovered Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artwork during her art history classes and this has been a recurring wave of inspiration ever since and of great influence on her compositions.


My Basquiat tours will occur every Saturday during the exhibition except 23 December and 27 January.

School groups

Please download our Activity Sheet and Teacher Resource

A special school group rate is available alongside free exhibition tours which are suitable for both primary and secondary school groups. A discounted group booking applies to all school groups of 10 or more:

  • Secondary and sixth form (up to age 19): £3 per student
  • Students under 14 years: free

For bookings and enquiries please contact the school groups booking line: Tel: 020 7382 7211 (Mon–Fri 10am–5pm) Email:

Please note, you will need to book at least two weeks in advance if you would like a free exhibition tour as part of your visit.

Barbican Art Gallery