THE TIMES SQUARE SHOW (1980) PROMINENTLY FEATURED IN THE EXHIBITION BASQUIAT: THE ARTIST AND HIS NEW YORK SCENE
Amidst the abundance of exhibitions about Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Schunck* Museum in Heerlen, NL has taken a different tack. Starting with drawings and photographs that Alexis Adler retained from 1979-80 when the 19-year-old Basquiat lived with her on East 12th Street, the Schunck* curators have put the focus on the artist’s early years, and the downtown art scene from which he emerged.
The Times Square Show (TSS) of June 1980 figures prominently in this story. Marc H Miller of Gallery 98 served as a consultant for this part of the exhibition, helping the Schunck* gather more than 50 original works from the historic exhibition that took place in a former massage parlor on 41st Street. Amongst the artists were Jane Dickson, Stefan Eins, Becky Howland, Alan Moore, Christy Rupp, John Ahearn, Jenny Holzer and many others.
Organized by the artist group Collaborative Projects Inc (COLAB), the TSS helped launch the careers of many participating artists. For Basquiat, it was a small but auspicious debut. Jeffrey Deitch singled out his now-lost mural in the TSS fashion lounge (sometimes called his first exhibited work) as a “knockout combination of de Kooning and subway spray paint scribbles”. Miller’s essay in the Schunck* catalogue gives the history of another lost Basquiat. Spotting an empty space over the doorway, Basquiat climbed a ladder, and with red gaffer’s tape, wrote out the words “FREE SEX” in foot-high letters. The effect was almost immediate, and not well received by the women artists participating in the exhibition, who suddenly had to deal with the neighborhood’s seedier characters. In less than an hour, Basquiat’s sign was removed, and a few days later, replaced with “TIMES SQ. SHOW” in similar red gaffer’s tape.