The AGO is break-dancing, beatboxing and staying up late to welcome Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition to Toronto

Exhibition opens Feb. 7 with energetic programming including extended public hours on Friday nights, in-gallery performances, a youth arts competition and Family Day fun

TORONTO—The radical vision of New York artist, musician and fashion-world icon Jean-Michel Basquiat arrives at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Feb. 7, 2015, and to celebrate the AGO is offering an unprecedented variety of related programming and events ranging from talks to film screenings and dance parties. Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time makes its only North American stop at the AGO and will run through May 10, 2015.

Timed-entry tickets for Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time are now on sale and are $16.50 for youth ages 17 and under, $21.50 for seniors and $25 for adults. Tickets are available for purchase online at ago, in person and over the phone. Admission is FREE for AGO members and for children five and under. AGO members have access to an exclusive preview before the exhibition opens to the public.

To ensure that as many Torontonians and visitors to the city as possible have a chance to experience Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time, the AGO is extending its Friday hours to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 13, 20 and 27, 2015, instead of closing at its regular time of 5:30 p.m. The last time-ticketed entry to the exhibition will be 7 p.m. As part of these special Friday nights, the AGO’s stimulating Basquiat Idea Bar program takes place in Walker Court on Feb. 13, 20 and 27 from 6 – 8 p.m. On Feb. 13, join author and columnist Shinan Govani and members of the Kiki Ballroom Alliance as they discuss and demonstrate topics related to “fame”. The theme for Feb. 20 is “noise,” and UNITY Charity will present beat-boxing and percussion workshops and join in a conversation about improvisation and creativity. Topics of “justice” will be explored on Feb. 27, with special projects presented by the AGO Youth Council. Bar service will be available for guests 19+. 

The AGO kicks off the Basquiat exhibition with a sold out performance by Grandmaster Flash at AGO First Thursdays on Feb 5, 2015. Featuring installations by Toronto artists, art-making activities, pop-up talks and a panel discussion entitled “It Could Have Been Me”: Perspectives on the Fight for Racial Justice and the Legacy of Jean-Michel Basquiat,” presented in partnership with the Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition, February’s First Thursday will be the first opportunity for non-members to see the Basquiat exhibition, two days before it opens to the public. Tickets for this exciting First Thursdays event sold out in less than 90 minutes. 

On Feb. 7, from 6 p.m. to midnight, the AGO will reverberate with the youthful sounds of B-boys and B-girls at the Basquiat Bash, a free opening-night event to celebrate the arrival of Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the TimeTwo thousand free tickets were booked by 125 community and youth groups across Toronto, with the remaining 1000 free public tickets won via an online draw.Ticket holders on opening night will hear DJs playing Basquiat-inspired playlists and hear remarks by AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum and special guests Jeanine Basquiat and Lisane Basquiat, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s sisters. Beginning at 9 p.m., visitors are invited to witness Breaking the Cycle Break Battle, a break-dancing competition presented in partnership with UNITY Charity, showcasing the best break-dancers in the city. Featuring over 30 top Toronto dancers, the two favourites will face off in a showdown in front of visitors and judges to compete for the chance to represent Toronto at the the Notorious IBE championships in the Netherlands this summer.

Across the city—at the AGO, First Canadian Place and Daniel’s Spectrum—Torontonians are invited to experience the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat via interactive digital kiosks. These free-to-use kiosks provide users with the opportunity to create and share a Basquiat-inspired “visual statement” – a digital dialogue that expresses the user’s thoughts and feelings about Basquiat. On a weekly basis, the AGO will select one submission to use in promotion of the exhibition, with its creator winning a free AGO annual membership.

Visitors looking to learn more about Basquiat and his art can visit, where a Basquiat artwork is being featured each week alongside a fun and creative mini art history lesson including details about the work, biographical information and quotes by the artist. Each artwork in focus comes with a carefully curated playlist of songs from a local artist inspired by Basquiat or his work. Also on the site, visitors can learn more about the exhibition and share each artwork via email, Facebook or Twitter. In addition, visitors who share the cards on social media can receive a discount code for 15 per cent off tickets to the exhibition.

Every weekend, beginning Feb. 14 through May 3, 2015, the AGO will offer in-gallery performances by artist educators and youth members from UNITY Charity, an AGO partner organization that uses hip-hop culture and programming to empower youth. The performances will take place every half hour from 1:30 – 4 p.m. Beatboxing will take place on Saturdays and spoken word performances will take over on Sundays.

Every Wednesday evening beginning Feb. 11, join the AGO’s youth gallery guides for a free pop-up talk in the exhibition at 6:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. These discussion-style talks are aimed at youth and will highlight artworks.

GTA youth ages 14 to 30 are invited to submit original artwork on the theme of empowering the black community for the Scratch & Mix Project competition. Basquiat’s desire to address issues of social justice—including racism, materialism and exploitation—is the inspiration behind this unique youth arts competition, a multifaceted youth arts and community engagement project, organized in partnership with the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, the Environics Institute’s Black Experience Project and NIA Centre for the Arts. A jury will select up to 10 finalists, who will be awarded $1,000 and see their work featured at the AGO in an exhibition opening on April 18, 2015. That same day, the AGO will host a dynamic one-day youth solidarity forum identifying strategies to empower black youth to play a greater role in the communityThis project is part of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation’s national 4th Wall: Make the Invisible Visible program, which collaborates with art galleries and museums across Canada to give voice to the invisible experiences of marginalized youth. For more details or to submit a proposal, please visit

Accompanying the exhibition is an immersive 14-stop audio guide, featuring commentary and description from Basquiat’s own sisters, local and international artists, community members and the exhibition’s curator Dieter Buchhart. Audio wands are available for rent at the entrance to the exhibition and cost $4 for public and $3 for members. The audio may also be downloaded for free in advance via the AGO Mobile App to an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad or Android device.

Combining music, video and art-making, visitors are invited to spend time in the interactive Basquiat Culture Jam Lounge, located just outside the exhibition. Visitors to the lounge can sit and listen to a curated playlist of Basquiat-inspired music and share their responses to the exhibition by recording their own personal message in the Basquiat video talk-back booth. Videos will be posted to In addition, visitors are encouraged to try their hand at street art by leaving a message on the chalkboard wall and to take photos of themselves with the oversized portrait of Basquiat and share with the hashtag #BasquiatAGO. The lounge is open during regular Gallery hours.

Basquiat-themed Family Sundays take over the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre every week beginning Feb.1, 2015. Each week families are invited to explore a new aspect of Basquiat’s work through art-making and hands-on activities. On through March 29, 2015, Family Sundays are free with admission and run weekly from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

The AGO celebrates families with a Basquiat-inspired Family Day event on Monday Feb. 16 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Exploring Basquiat’s love of music and art, the jam-packed line up of activities includes hip hop and drumming performances and workshops in Walker Court, crown-making in the Gallery School Studio and Gallery-wide family-friendly tours. This all-ages event is free with general admission. A discounted Family Day pass, offering admission for two adults and up to five children, will be on sale for $39 at

March Break at the AGO will include nine days of drop-in fun for the family. Participants of all ages can join the AGO for nine creative days of exploring the amazing art of Basquiat. The whole family can enjoy beatboxing,dancing and drumming performances, storytelling and family friendly tours of the Basquiat exhibition. A discounted Family Pass, available throughout March Break, offers admission for two adults and up to five children, and will also be on sale for $39 at

On March 28, 2015, the AGO brings together academics, artists and creative thinkers for a one-day symposium on Basquiat, his legacy and ongoing relevance. Confirmed speakers include Basquiat scholar Jordana Moore Saggese, cultural historian Dagmawi Woubshet, choreographer and performer Dana Michel and organizer and artist Che Kotari. Registration for this event, which includes lunch and access to the exhibition, is open now. For more details and to purchase tickets visit

Downtown 81,
 director Edo Bertoglio’s snapshot of post-punk Manhattan in the early 1980s, starring Jean-Michel Basquiat, will be screened on April 8, 2015, in the AGO’s Jackman Hall. Tickets are $12 for the public, $10 for members and $8 for students. To purchase tickets please visit

Toronto’s hottest art night out and annual AGO fundraiser Massive Party returns on April 23, 2015. In celebration of the Basquiat exhibition, this year’s theme is Hotbed and artistic director TALWST is out to prove that now is the time to be in Toronto, bringing together for one night only the city’s foremost underground artists and musicians, for a whirlwind of unforgettable performances and installations. A Toronto artist and musician, TAWLST is a member of the Basquiat Community Advisory Committee and will recreate his acclaimed performance piece lanmò at this year’s Massive Party. Tickets are on sale now at 

Beginning Feb. 17, 2015, FRANK restaurant celebrates Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time with a series of prix-fixe menus inspired by the artist’s Haitian and Puerto Rican roots. Featuring vibrant dishes such as grilled pineapple and zucchini salad, vegan gumbo and Puerto Rican crème caramel, these three-course prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus are available for $35 and $45. In addition, FRANK will offer three signature Basquiat-inspired cocktails to complement the special menu offerings.

ShopAGO celebrates the arrival of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s radical style with an exciting collection of contemporary accessories, stationery, housewares and apparel inspired by the artist and his New York roots. Toronto artist Rita D. presents a limited-edition collection of 1980s-inspired jewelry, and from Canadian toy manufacturers Monster Factory comes SAM, a Basquiat-inspired plush toy dinosaur. From France comes an exclusive selection of Basquiat-print silk scarves by Brochier Soieries, in addition to Basquiat-printed Limoges porcelain serving plates and espresso sets by Ligne Blanche. A unique selection of Basquiat print T-shirts, kids apparel and outwear is also available. Exclusive to Toronto, shopAGO will also be carrying copies of Shades of Grey, the 1979 LP released by Basquiat’s experimental band Grey.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time will be accompanied by an extensive 228-page hardcover catalogue. Featuring essays by guest curator Dieter Buchhart, Glenn O’Brien, Francesco Pellizzi, Olivier Berggruen, Franklin Sirmans and Christian Campbell, the catalogue will be available for sale in shopAGO for the special price of $35 through May 10. Additionally, the AGO is pleased to present visitors the 88-page soft-cover publication, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Featuring an introduction by curatorial assistant Magdalyn Asimakis and 75 colour images featured in the exhibition, it is available for purchase at shopAG0 for $10. Visit shopAGO online or call 416-979-6610 for more information.

Full details of all Basquiat related events and programs can be found at

Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time is organized by the AGO.

Lead Supporter: Hal Jackman Foundation

Generously supported by: TD Bank Group | Robert Harding

Government Partner: Government of Ontario

Supported by the Government of Canada / Avec l’appui du gouvernement du Canada.

Official Hotel Partner: Chelsea Hotel, Toronto

The AGO acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country. / Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil  a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.

With a collection of more than 80,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002 Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program offering great value, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit to find out more about upcoming special exhibitions, to learn about eating and shopping at the AGO, to register for programs and to buy tickets or memberships.

Feb. 7 – May 10, 2015: Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time


June 20 – Sept. 7, 2015: Landscape Painting in the Americas

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.

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For images and media inquiries, please contact:

Andrea McLoughlin; Senior Publicist, Holmes PR
[email protected]

Andrea-Jo Wilson; News Officer, AGO Communications
[email protected]

Caitlin Coull; Manager, AGO Communications
[email protected]

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