Book Review: Widow Basquiat, by Jennifer Clement.

“Widow Basqiuat was a morbid nickname, given to me by Rene Ricard, many years before Jean-Michel Died”-Suzanne Mallouk


How many times have you heard a celebrities dirty laundry screeched from a bitter ex or estranged spouse, with the dark secrets of their tumultuous relationship hollered through a tacky primary-colour stricken magazine? The deserted lovers endeavour to confirm their place on Celebrity Big Brother & GMTV is achieved with a desperate photoshoot & starving vocabulary, certifying their Z-list status. A far cry from the Hello magazine sobs; Widow Basquiat ,by Jennifer Clement, bellows a memoir of a passionate union between artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat & his ‘widow’ Suzanne Mallouk; a union blooming amongst the weeds of addiction, whose angry thorns contorts and disfigures their love.

Clement paints a myriad of haunting “fly on the wall” verses, thick with both poetic flare & gritty reality. Fleshing out the life of the renowned Brooklyn-born artist through his muse’s experience, to create this tragic sculpture.


“He paints a simple square house with a triangles roof that has an ’S’ inside, ‘Because Suzanne you are my home’ …”

The book follows Basquiat’s journey from graffiti artist – selling pieces on the street, to critical acclaim – perishing under the weight of fame. Fusing poetry, drawing & historical information, Jean used his aggressive style to vocalise his social commentary – observing wealth vs poverty, integration vs segregation & attacking systems of power & racism. Sinewing through Basquiat’s life is Suzanne, his lifeblood, A woman searching to find her own song within the echoes of Studio 54, scrambling to find herself in the shadows of her toxic relationship with Basquiat & his fame.

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“He smells of leather, oil paint, tobacco, marijuana & the faint metallic smell of cocaine, he wears handmade wool sweaters & long Mexican ponchos. He never walks in a straight line. He zig-zags where he is going”

The book constructs a visual for the world underneath the bright lights of New York & glamour of Studio 54. Revealing the political & social static which fuelled the storm of artistic expression in the 70’s & 80’s. A tide which would propel Basquiat into notoriety, but capsize him into its perilous waters. A story we’ve heard far too often, but not so beautifully told. Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement.

2015_basquiat_el135-58_4000w“I realised that a book can reach out and embrace you like an arm & make you walk away from everything you understood”

If you are a fan of Basquiat’s work or would like to learn more; check out his upcoming exhibition at the Barbican.


Thanks For Reading !!!!


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