NEW ORLEANS WILL Draw International Eyes with “Basquiat and the Bayou”

We already know New Orleans pulls in plenty of visitors – 2012 brought in 9.1 million, to be exact – but some tourists are more famous than others. Shortly before his death in 1988, famed artist Jean-Michel Basquiat paid a visit to New Orleans, resulting in several works. Now, 26 years later, those works are coming back home as part of the Prospect.3 biennial.

The most anticipated exhibit within Prospect.3, “Basquiat and the Bayou” will include unifying themes of slavery, geography, and the cultural legacy of the American South. This exciting exhibition will draw in viewers from all over the world – and local New Orleanians, too.

basquiat prospect.3

Photo courtesy of Pietro Izzo on Flickr.

Our population clocks in at just over 370,000, but because of tourists, we get to enjoy the events of a much larger populace. This world-class Basquiat exhibition is the perfect example of how tourism benefits locals as much as visitors.

Basquiat had a rare ability to speak not only to contemporary art fans but also everyday art admirers through his evocative work. The same holds true for his Prospect.3 exhibit, which appeals to art aficionados and rookies alike.

The exhibit is based on an upcoming book of the same name by Franklin Sirmans, the curator of the Prospect.3 biennial. Sirmans also serves as the department head and curator of contemporary arts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), proving that New Orleans is an enticing spot for art professionals.

With a familiarity of world-class museums like LACMA, Sirmans will present “Basquiat and the Bayou” at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Of course, the Ogden is a stellar choice for many reasons.

Beyond the museum’s mission to highlight the visual arts and culture of the South, it also boasts a prime location on St. Charles Avenue. Visitors from nearby museums like the National WWII Museum or the many restaurants in the Warehouse District will be close by, able to stop in and view Basquiat’s incredible works at their leisure.

Whereas many might expect a Basquiat exhibit in Paris or London, we know New Orleans is the best choice, even if it’s not the most obvious. The Ogden itself is a great representation of that: Housed in a refurbished library from 1889, the Ogden, from the outside, is a pillar of traditional Southern style. Inside, however, the building is sleek, modern, and a destination for arts and culture – exactly what we’d expect from this city of contrasts.