Basquiat Exhibit Process

Nick Marotta
6 min readOct 4, 2018


Artist Information and Initial Moodboard:


Idea 2: An exhibit that introduces you to Basquiat in the same way he was introduced to the New York art world in the 70s. From the outside of the gallery, you would see his graffiti poetry over the walls, signed “SAMO.” That would intrigue you to enter, and then you would meet Basquiat by watching a video clip of his interview alongside Warhol, just as the world got to know Basquiat in his rise to fame through Warhol. From there, you would see a small selection of Basquiat paintings. The exhibit should feel like a gallery on a New York City street in the 80s. This introduction to Basquiat should excite you into seeing his other works at the Warhol museum.

Miller I.C.A. floor plan and elevations with figures for scale
Blank floor plan on left, Parti Diagram on right

Parti Diagram Revision

Here I’ve added a wall to section off the art exhibiting in the back and better suggest flow through the space. This also affords new real estate for photos and information about Basquiat and his work.

Interaction Idea:
Have sound domes hanging above the viewing area for each piece, playing a quick audio clip of Basquiat talking in response to the presence of a new viewer in front of the piece.


In the article Peter sent to us, the order of information presented and its relationship to holding people’s attention was discussed.
“Good exhibit writing actually flips the rules: Start with the specific and work to the general; start with the present and work to the past.”

My plan thus far has been to order the experience of Basquiat’s artwork from early work to later work, and the article made me reconsider my approach. I’ve decided, however, that my specific approach should work for the same reasons that led to the rule of thumb quoted above.
I am going to put Basquiat’s early graffiti on the outside of the Miller Gallery. This should spur interest from people who are very familiar with Basquiat and people who want to know who the hell graffitied a Carnegie Mellon University campus building. Then, once someone has entered the gallery, the first thing they digest is a video interview with Basquiat and Andy Warhol. This is the hook. Basquiat only rose to fame once Warhol introduced the world to Basquiat’s charming personality at parties, art shows, and on TV. Immediately tying Basquiat’s work to his personality and the pop icon Andy Warhol should function as a great hook. It will also set the context for the exhibit ahead, with reactive speakers playing clips from Basquiat interviews above each piece and the inclusion of Warhol/Basquiat collaboration works. Then, it will feel fitting at the end to see the exhibit is tied to the Andy Warhol Museum.

sketchup iteration of front entrance, with vinyl appliqué of SAMO graffiti and Basquiat photo, tying his identity to the graffiti seen on other faces of the building, leading into the exhibit.
The visitor’s perspective at entrance: vinyl wall appliqué of Basquiat with his logo behind Gallery Assistant desk
An area to the left of the entrance where you can sit and listen to a Basquiat interview, see him and Warhol posing with paintings. Playing (once the motion sensor detects you have sat down) is a video excerpt from the State of The Art documentary series. This is playing on a TV from the 80s to help set the time.
Main pieces on display: early work, collaboration, late work, from left to right
A space on the central wall for photos and information about Basquiat and a space on the last wall before the exit for Information about The Andy Warhol Museum.

Iteration 1 Sketchfab:

10/09/18 Notes

Today I talked to Cameron and Peter about the current state of this exhibit plan. Here are some things I need to think about, extracted from those conversations:

The applique directly next to the door can definitely work as SAMO graffiti, but including a life-size photo of Basquiat flat against the wall might be disorienting, because people aren’t flat. Cameron suggested prototyping that true to scale to see how it feels.
The overhead dome speakers are sort of “status-quo” in museums, as far as technological interactions go. What can I do that makes this more novel? Also, what can I do to fit this technology into the 80s theme that the old television establishes? Maybe a radio or a walkman.
The final “ad” for the Andy Warhol Museum existing in the space with the paintings feels wrong, especially in the style it is shown in this iteration. Maybe it’d be better to have that connection to the museum be a simple “Jean-Michel Basquiat presented by The Andy Warhol Museum” sign at the beginning and end of the experience.

How do people know that these speakers will talk to them? How do people know how long the audio clip will be? How long should it be? Should it get them to stay longer?
Maybe there is a circle below the speaker. Maybe an interface is projected onto the floor when someone steps into the circle, indicating the duration of the audio clip.

10/11/18 Progress

I talked to Connor about my exhibit and we both agreed that it looked like a standard Miller Gallery exhibit, not something designed by me. So I sat down and thought about how I could re-approach the concept. I thought about thresholds and how in my exhibit I have two distinct spaces: the entry and the gallery. I thought about how I could make the thresholds between those spaces more apparent and meaningful.

I made another moodboard to reflect my ideas that came from this conversation:

I decided to split the exhibit into three sections: environment, studio and mind. To go deeper into Basquiat’s mind and understand him more, you have to go through each level.

Parti Diagram

First, you have to understand his environment. His area of New York City was run down and covered in graffiti. To set that scene and produce intrigue, I’ve already decided to have his graffiti as “SAMO” on the outside wall.
Then, once you enter, you’re in Basquiat’s studio. The walls are drywall, the floor is concrete, and there is random furniture about. The TV is still there playing a documentary clip to introduce the visitor to Basquiat, but now it makes sense. With how obsessed with becoming famous he was, it is certain that Basquiat would have a news story about him running on his TV. A radio on the front desk plays “Boléroby Maurice Ravel, the song Basquiat would listen to on repeat as he worked.
Then, in an almost twilight-zone-like fashion, you walk behind a wall and everything is black, except four paintings hanging on the wall under light. This lets you know materiality isn’t a factor in this space, that the only important thing is the works. A sound dome hangs within a radius of each piece. When you stand under it, a dim light shines down on the floor around you and an audio clip from one of Basquiat’s interviews plays, introducing you to something about his worldview, allowing you to tie it to the meaning of the painting you are seeing. The light on the ground grows dimmer and eventually goes out once the recording is done, so you know how long the audio clip is.