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October 15, 2022 – February 19, 2023

Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music

Organized in collaboration with the Musée de la musique – Philharmonie de Paris, Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music is the first large-scale multidisciplinary exhibition devoted to the role of music in the work of one of the most innovative artists of the second half of the 20th century.

A novel perspective on Basquiat’s artistic and musical career

Music holds a prominent place in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painterly practice in the form of sign, symbol and sound. His oeuvre is replete with depictions of musical instruments alongside references to opera, classical music, jazz, bebop, hip-hop and rap. Presenting some 100 works by the artist together with numerous sound clips, film footage and archival documents, the exhibition provides an innovative in-depth look at Basquiat’s career as a musician, the sounds that accompanied his mark-making and the musicians who inspired him, from Beethoven to the New York underground scene of the 1970s and 1980s and, notably, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Maria Callas.

Beginning with an exploration of the music that shaped Basquiat’s New York, the exhibition sheds new light on his career as a performer and musician, notably with the band Gray. It also looks at his painting compositional techniques as they relate to music, and references his ties to particular record labels, musicians, cultures and sounds.

Image of the painting Anybody Speaking Words by Jean-Michel Basquiat

A socially engaged artist

For Basquiat, music was a message about the transatlantic migration of cultural forms and the brutal reality of being a Black artist facing racism. His engagement with the African diaspora and the politics of race in the United States is one of the main threads of the exhibition. Anchoring the artist’s oeuvre in our time, it considers how his works relate to contemporary culture.


A Tailor-made Augmented Reality App

Designed and developed by Dpt., a Montreal-based studio specialized in creating immersive environments, the Basquiat and Music app features interactive content that transports the visitor into New York of the 1970s and 1980s, thus amplifying their experience of the exhibition. Equipped with your smartphone and earphones, you will discover the artist’s musical influences, view reconstructions of stages from that period, and learn more about the symbols that adorn several of the exhibited paintings. Fun and easy to navigate, the app also allows you to take pictures of your Museum visit to remember and share.

The Basquiat and Music app can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Google Play. Its content is offered in French and English.

The augmented reality application for the Basquiat and music exhibition

Exhibition Catalogue

Released in English and French by the MMFA’s Publishing Department, in collaboration with Éditions Gallimard, this catalogue is an unprecedented study of the role of music in Basquiat’s painting. It includes essays by major art, music and culture historians as well as interviews with public figures who knew Basquiat or who were inspired by his work, such as George Condo, Anna Domino, Fab 5 Freddy, Michael Holman, Lee Jaffe, Nick Taylor and Toxic. It also includes new compositions by American poet Thomas Sayers Ellis and saxophonist James Brandon Lewis.

Richly illustrated, the book is divided into four sections, which follow the exhibition’s main themes and trace the history of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artistic production. Each section comes with a playlist to further immerse readers in the artist’s sonic landscapes.

The catalogue is sold at the Museum’s Boutique and Bookstore.

The catalog of the exhibition Basquiat and music

Basquiat Exploration Zone

Located adjacent to the exhibition galleries, a mediation area invites visitors to continue their exploration of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s creative world.

  • Gathering space
    This space is set up for hosting a variety of activities, including guided discussions, screenings of film excerpts, a participatory art wall, and activities for families on Sunday afternoons.

  • Creativity space
    Here, visitors can unleash their creativity as they explore the remix technique in an evolving participatory artwork.

  • Reflection space
    In this space, the public can quietly enjoy a collection of music and books about the artist.


You can also extend your musical experience of the exhibition on Stingray Music: the Basquiat and Music channel offers you 24 h of listening pleasure, compiled by specialized programmers.

Tune in

Credits and curatorial team

An exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Musée de la musique – Philharmonie de Paris. The exhibition is curated by Mary-Dailey Desmarais, Chief Curator, MMFA, Dieter Buchhart, guest curator and Vincent Bessières, guest curator for the Musée de la Musique – Philharmonie de Paris.

Images © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

Presented by

Major public partners

Gouvernement du Canada

Major partner

In collaboration with

With support from

Tourisme Montréal

Official Sponsor

Media Partners

Public partners

Image of the painting Anybody Speaking Words by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), Anybody Speaking Words, 1982, acrylic and pastel on canvas, 243.8 x 156.2 cm. Private collection, Switzerland. © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo Fotoearte

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), A Panel of Experts, 1982, acrylic and oil pastel on paper mounted on canvas, 152.5 x 152 x 4.5 cm. MMFA, gift of Ira Young. © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo Douglas M. Parker

The augmented reality application for the Basquiat and music exhibition
The catalog of the exhibition Basquiat and music

Photo Mike Patten

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