This book is the catalog for the current show at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which already appeared at the Beyeler Foundation in Switzerland. Basically,it shows every major work the artist painted, with a heavy emphasis on the early years (1981-1982) considered by many pundits (and also by the art market...)to be his most creative.
The text is a compendium of what is already known about Basquiat, with an essay that tries to decipher the artist's personality and another focusing on his role in the NYC art scene of the 1980's. Also, a rather enlightening interview held in 1985 (in which we learn that Basquiat was a Picasso and Warhol collector) gives some insight on what the artist thought of his art. Here is a quotation from that interview: "I think I have to learn more not to work around what's around me and just work with what I think, I guess...".
Now, the most interesting part of the book, in my opinion, is art historian Robert Storr's essay in which he tries to debunk the pervading and invasive myth shrouding the artist since his untimely death at the age of 28. Basquiat suffers of the same problem as the Mona Lisa: how is it possible to look at one of his painting merely as a work of art, forgetting the legend and the tons of ink that have been written about the artist? Storr's essay sheds new light on the work, replacing it in the art history of the 1980's, and this is a laudable endeavour.
As far as the illustrations of the works are concerned, they are good without being exceptional: a demanding reader might bemoan the absence of magnified details, especially when one thinks of Basquiat not only as a colorist, but also as a master of painterliness...