Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Sisters Take Us Inside the King Pleasure Exhibit

Rondel Holder, Photos by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

The Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure© exhibit is an immersive experience of over 200 never-before-seen and rarely shown works by the late artist. Curated by his family, the exhibit gives a sense of intimacy, peeling back the layers of the phenomenon that he is and showcasing more about who he was at his core, what he stood for, how he lived and what truly mattered to him. Even for Basquiat fans, this exhibit, at the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea, is likely to offer new perspectives on his life and love for art that you weren’t aware of—or at least not at this depth.

We had the opportunity to connect with Jean-Michel’s sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, about putting together this exhibit, what they hope people take away, Jean-Michel’s connection to New York City and some of their favorite artists today. Read on for more (note that several responses reflect the opinion of both sisters).

Lisane Basquiat (left) and Jeanine Heriveaux

King Pleasure feels so personal, from the re-creation of the living room scene to personal messages. What are you hoping that people take away from this exhibit?

Sisters: We hope that people walk away from the experience feeling inspired. We also hope that a key takeaway is a better understanding and appreciation for the rich and sometimes complex context of Jean-Michel’s life and his resulting work. We wanted to share a more personal account and to offer another perspective.

We also really wanted to offer a unique window of time within which rarely seen works and some of Jean-Michel’s personal property could be seen. People often ask about his source material and what he may have been thinking while working on a particular piece. Who can truly answer that question? What we did do, however, is create an experience that provides insight into what he listened to and watched, what he had around him, where and how he grew up, his lifestyle—and what he created along the way.

How did it feel putting this exhibit together?

Sisters: It felt like important work and an honor. There were times when it felt emotional because we, essentially, immersed ourselves in our brother’s life and the life of our parents and other ancestors. It was not a simple job and not always easy.

Does creativity run in the family? Do you two or anyone in your direct family consider themselves a creative?

Lisane Basquiat: Creativity runs in much of our family and we each find ways to express it.

Jeanine Heriveaux: Lisane through writing, her daughter Jessica founded an all-natural line of skin-care products called 4 The Love Of All, her son Joseph within the music industry. I love interior design and have recently developed a fondness for silversmithing. My daughter Noelle is a writer, singer and is passionate about sustainable fashion. Daughter Sophia is an aspiring film director and producer (founder of Goldfin Films), and daughter Jolie has a love for film editing and singing.

You have a moment early in the exhibit that truly showcases his connection to the City, mainly Brooklyn and Manhattan. How do you think growing up here shaped who he was as a person?

Sisters: New York City is such a unique place and Jean-Michel grew up during a time when the City was experiencing a significant cultural, economic and social shift. He bore witness to much of it and began a dialogue about it with a narrative that told the world where he stood on those key topics.

I often feel like Jean-Michel’s work also feels like NYC because it’s vibrant but also so edgy and raw. Do you think his environment inspired his art style? Or do you think that was more of his personality shining through? Or both?

Lisane Basquiat: Jean-Michel was the sum of the experiences he lived through, as we all are. I see his personality and experiences shining through and know that his environment had to also contribute to his art style. I think it is both.


There are many visual artists who have clearly been inspired by Jean-Michel’s work. How do you think he would respond to this next generation of artists?

Lisane Basquiat: Jean-Michel was supportive of his fellow artists, and I believe that he would have continued to be.

Lisane Basquiat

Jeanine Heriveaux

Speaking of next generation, are there any new visual artists that you two enjoy?

Lisane Basquiat: I enjoy Jonni Cheatwood’s work, especially his work of late. Jewel Ham’s work tells beautiful stories. I also like Damola Ayegbayo. I’m enjoying visual stories about the human experience these days.

Jeanine Heriveaux: I really like the work of Jennifer Packer.

For more information and to purchase tickets to King Pleasure, visit the show’s official website.

The exhibition is produced by The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, with Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux serving as executive producers, in collaboration with Ileen Gallagher and ISG Productions Ltd. The family commissioned internationally acclaimed architect David Adjaye to be the exhibition’s designer. He is the founder of Adjaye Associates, which operates with studios in Accra, London and New York, and designed The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC.