The Helis Foundation and Prospect New Orleans Announce Basquiat Exhibit in New Orleans


Michelle Moore
Media Contact, Deveney Communication
504‐949‐3999, ext. 221

The Helis Foundation and Prospect New Orleans Announce Basquiat Exhibit in New Orleans

“Basquiat and the Bayou” opens fall 2014 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

NEW ORLEANS – July 8, 2014 – With generous lead support from the Diana Helis Henry and Adrienne Helis Malvin Art Funds of The Helis Foundation, Prospect New Orleans is pleased to present “Basquiat and the Bayou” as part of the International Contemporary Art Biennial “Prospect.3: Notes for Now.” The exhibition, which features the painting “Undiscovered Genius Of The Mississippi Delta,” will be on display from October 25, 2014 to January 25, 2015 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans.

“Basquiat and the Bayou Presented by The Helis Foundation” is a focused exhibition of nearly a dozen paintings and works on paper by Jean-Michel Basquiat that consider his relationship to the American South, where Basquiat traveled shortly before his death in 1988. The project is organized and curated by Franklin Sirmans, The Terri and Michael Smooke Department Head and Curator of Contemporary Art at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Artistic Director for “Prospect.3: Notes for Now.”  

“The presentation of ‘Basquiat and the Bayou’ embodies The Helis Foundation’s mission to enrich the cultural life of New Orleans and provide residents with new lenses through which to reflect upon their own past, present and future,” explained David A. Kerstein, President of The Helis Foundation.

Despite the brevity of his career, Basquiat’s influence on contemporary artists – including several who will show as part of Prospect.3 – as well as on various rap artists, has made him an iconic and mythic figure in contemporary culture. As Ken Johnson recently stated in The New York Times “[Basquiat] was not only good; at his best he was one of the most original artists of his generation.”

“I’ve had a longstanding interest in the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat,” said Franklin Sirmans, Curator for “Basquiat and the Bayou Presented by The Helis Foundation.” “In 2005, I worked on the artist’s retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, in addition to exhibitions dating back to 1993 and several catalogues, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to curate this exhibit with a fresh and renewed vision.”

While a number of exhibitions have surveyed the career of Jean-Michel Basquiat, few have attempted an in-depth examination of a specific narrative running through his work. “Basquiat and the Bayou Presented by The Helis Foundation” explores a body of work representing Basquiat’s internal fight with the shadows of the American South, shaped by a long history of slavery, colonialism and imperialism. New Orleans is the crossroads where the Mississippi greets the Middle Passage, and shortly before his death, Basquiat visited the city. He knew the importance to his work of the South and New Orleans specifically. The selection of works in the present exhibition explore themes of geography, history, and cultural legacy in Basquiat’s work in a number of ways.

A fully illustrated catalogue distributed by Delmonico Books/Prestel will accompany “Basquiat and the Bayou Presented by The Helis Foundation,” featuring an essay by Sirmans introducing the work and themes for the exhibition, along with essays by preeminent scholars Robert Farris Thompson and Robert

G. O’Meally. Thompson has written extensively on Basquiat and his text explores three artworks in great depth, tracking the complexities and culture-crossings of the artist’s work. O’Meally offers fresh scholarship with an analysis of Basquiat’s work in relationship to Romare Bearden and Louis Armstrong.

“Our partnership with the Ogden Museum of Southern Art personifies Prospect New Orleans’ larger mission,” said Brooke Davis Anderson, Executive Director of Prospect New Orleans, “of pairing international art and artists with New Orleans institutions in ways that enrich people’s understanding and appreciation of both contemporary art and the city of New Orleans.”

Prospect New Orleans will produce the conference “Thirty Years of Meaning and Influence: Flash of the Spirit: African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy by Robert Farris Thompson” at the Ogden Museum in New Orleans on December 11 & 12, 2014. C. Daniel Dawson is acting as Director of this conference. The conference will feature sessions that address the important way in which the publication, Flash of the Spirit: African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy, has been influential in the worlds of academia, international philosophy, art history, art, dance and music. Flash was a pivotal text for Basquiat. Dr. Grey Gundaker, Dr. Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, and Dr. Kellie Jones will lead the sessions. Dr. Robert Farris Thompson will provide the keynote address. 




About “Basquiat and the Bayou”

The “Basquiat and the Bayou” exhibit is made possible by the Diana Helis Henry and Adrienne Helis Malvin Art Funds of The Helis Foundation. Additional support is contributed by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

About The Helis Foundation

The Helis Foundation is a Louisiana private foundation, established and funded by the William Helis Family. The Helis Foundation’s resources and objectives are divided into two areas: the general fund and the Diana Helis Henry and Adrienne Helis Malvin Art Funds. The general fund focuses on community needs within the Metropolitan New Orleans area by grants to numerous charities. The Art Funds were established by bequests from Diana Helis Henry and Adrienne Helis Malvin. The Art Funds make grants to sustain, to provide free admission to, and to acquire art works for institutions within the Metropolitan New Orleans area. The Art Funds also underwrite major exhibits and projects, such as the Contemporary Arts Center’s 30 Americans, Prospect.3’s “Basquiat and the Bayou” exhibit scheduled for late 2014 and the Sculpture for New Orleans Poydras Corridor Project for notable sculpture installations on the Poydras Street medians.


About Prospect New Orleans

Prospect New Orleans is an International Arts Biennial. Its third iteration, “Prospect.3: Notes for Now,” will take place from October 25, 2014 through January 25, 2015. The exhibition will present the work of more than 50 artists selected by Artistic Director Franklin Sirmans, in more than 15 locations throughout neighborhoods across New Orleans. For more information, please visit

Prospect New Orleans is free and open to the public* Wednesdays through Sundays, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.**

It will be closed on the following holidays:

  • November 27-28, 2014  (Thanksgiving)
  • December 24-25, 2014 (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day)
  • December 31, 2014-January 1, 2015 (New Year’s Eve and New Year's Day)


Due to academic calendars, the following venues have special exhibit closures, including:

  • Delgado University
    • November 26-30, 2014 (Thanksgiving Holiday)
    • December 20, 2014-January 4, 2015 (Winter Break)
  • Dillard University
    • November 26-28, 2014 (Thanksgiving Holiday)
    • December 20, 2014-January 4, 2015 (Winter Break)
  • Xavier University
    •   November 27-28, 2014 (Thanksgiving Holiday)
    •  December 24, 2014-January 1, 2015 (Winter Break)

 If traveling to New Orleans for Prospect.3, please consider that holiday schedules may preclude viewing at several venues. Book your travel so as to ensure the opportunity to experience the biennial in totality. Please visit our website for daily information regarding open and closed venues:

*General admission may apply at certain participating venues.

**Longue Vue House and Gardens opens at 1pm on Saturday and Sunday, or by appointment. For more information or to make an appointment, please call (504) 488-5488.