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Fans flock to Basquiat’s grave in Green-Wood Cemetery

The Brooklyn Paper
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Green-Wood Cemetery in Sunset Park is the resting place of many famous Brooklynites, though none is more beloved — and most frequently visited by adoring fans — than artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, two of the prolific artist’s friends led about 50 visitors down the cemetery’s winding carriage paths, and under colorful trees, to visit the grave site of the contemporary artist, who died in 1988 at age 27, leaving behind more than 2,000 paintings and drawings, and many close friends and collaborators.

“I was here when they put him in the grave,” said Basquiat’s former girlfriend, artist-turned-psychiatrist, Suzanne Mallouk, and author of poetic memoir, “The Widow Basquiat.” “Jean-Michel was a thoughtful, elegant man who was subversive — he lived his life in a way that was fearless.”

The grave visit was preceded by an on-site screening of documentary film about Basquiat, “The Radiant Child” — in which Mallouk plays a prominent role; afterwards, the art lovers boarded Green-Wood’s signature green trolley, and were treated to a historical cemetery tour delivered by Historic Fund Director of Development and Marketing Lisa Alpert, before quietly paying their respects.

“Basquiat is one of the top two or three people visited here,” Alpert explained. Green-Wood has recently begun to rebrand itself as a leading historical institution, and Alpert hopes that events like this one will generate interest, and bolster support, for more cultural programming.

“People are moved when they visit him. They leave little objects ephemera, on his gravestone; There’s an empty wooden frame, pennies, flowers, all sorts of unusual things — people want to honor the amazing spirit that this man was. Green-Wood is an amazing place, and visiting his grave here, is poignant and special.”

Basquiat is, to this day, one of the most prolific and celebrated contemporary artists of the 20th century. Born in Brooklyn in 1960, his artwork explores social and racial injustices, and is riddled with confrontational phrases, words and codes. Regardless of taste, Basquiat’s work elicits strong reactions from its viewers — Mallouk says that “unless you’re a psychologically minded, self-reflected person who can deal with your own demons, you can’t handle his work” — and those who made the pilgrimage to Green-Wood on Saturday found themselves moved.

“It’s the combination of content and location, it’s so intriguing,” said Nicole Rochat of Kensington. “The film is beautiful and the cemetery is amazing — it’s the perfect place to do this.”

Natasha Walker, a Flatbush resident and Basquiat enthusiast, was especially affected by standing so close to Basquiat’s resting place.

“It’s surreal to be here, so close to his grave,” Walker said. “I’m glad he’s here, with so many other great people, where he was brought up, in Brooklyn.”

Green-Wood Cemetery [Fifth Avenue and 25th Street in Sunset Park, (718) 768-7300].

Reach Arts Editor Juliet Linderman at jlinderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8309.
Updated 5:27 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

William Harris from Boerum Hill says:
Michel Basquiat raised in Boerum Hill.
Nov. 8, 2011, 7:29 pm
nancy from coney says:
its sad that the dead cant rest in peace in that cemetary sure its fine to do trolly tours and leactures in the chapel but people treat that place like its a park people its a cemetary where dead people are burried some respect when u go there
Nov. 8, 2011, 9:25 pm
tee from sunset park says:
first, cemeteries like greenwood were created as "parks" where "mourners" could celebrate nature and the unity of life & death as part of nature and the natural course of existence. greenwood was only the second of what would become many cemetaries designed in this mode.

second, no disrespect to the artist, but your headline was very misleading - its wasn't "fans" it was a gathering of family & friends...no more or less than when my family gather there to celebrate an anniversary of a loved one's life.
Nov. 9, 2011, 7:44 am
k from gp says:
@nancy - There are 20,000 people buried in Washington Square Park. Look it up.
Nov. 9, 2011, 6:35 pm
nancy from coney says:
first of all when greenwood was created the people had nothing better 2 do but hang out there there was no parks locally prospect park hadnt been created yet so they went there and when they went there they didnt have shows they didnt have movies being shown in the chapel they didnt have parades around t he grounds this past memorial day they had a civil war renactment with parades and horse crap all over the place and they had the troops camping out behind the main gate 10 ft from graves and at the lake 10 feet from graves they have concerts and people sit allover the graves and leave litter amonst other things as a plot owner i find it disrespectful ther is prospect part only a couple of blocks away they can go there its not the 1800s anymore when theres no park im just glad my plots no were near the comotion
Nov. 9, 2011, 7:14 pm
nancy from coney says:
who ever wrote that is a disgusting pig and has issues and has to grow up this is not the place to talk like that
grow up dont use my name to be an stpid jerk
i did not post this
Nov. 11, 2011, 8:56 am
The Ghost of Brooklyn from Green-Wood says:
“DEAD rockstar haunts Green-Wood Cemetery; visits grave of Basquiat”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV4LCDha4fY
Aug. 11, 2014, 11:41 am
Nicole from red hook says:
My husband and I visited in July. We both treated the cemetery respectfully and paid our respects to jean-michel. I personally cleaned his grave site and brought his favorites... a tin can filled with crayons... we love him and miss him. And btw we felt honored to be able to quietly drive through greenwood it was amazing to in a noisy city and still find serenity there. I think we will go back and have a quiet picnic by the lake, in the shade.
Aug. 8, 2015, 7:17 am

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