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Artnews has a fascinating story by Bob Nikas outlining the aversion among museums to acquiring Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work. Despite the assumption that museums bestow the legitimacy that makes for lasting reputations, Basquiat has succeeded in becoming a giant of late 20th Century art without much significant institutional support:

Despite the fact that Basquiat’s excellent Glenn (1985) is now on display at MoMA, it’s still true that the museum has not yet acquired a painting by the artist. Glenn is accompanied by a wall label identifying it asa loan from a private collection, not as the museum’s own work, nor as a promised gift. This is an exceptional instance. The museum is not in the habit of presenting, outside of special exhibitions, works from private collections, as doing so would elevate the status of art held in private hands so that they may then be sold with value-added provenance. In this moment, the inclusion of the word “yet” is entirely appropriate. The presence of this painting on long-term loan can be seen as a very public announcement that a Basquiat is absent from the museum’s holdings, an enticement for owners and donors who may come forth—or come to the rescue, as it were. […]

Only the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in L.A. are able to present a fully formed view of this artist, with significant paintings among a half dozen of his works in each collection. There are none at the Guggenheim, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Walker Art Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, or the Seattle Art Museum. MoMA, dedicated to telling the story of modern art, may well have been threatened by postmodernism as it took hold in the ’80s.

Basquiat and the Collecting of History  (ARTnews)

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