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Tickets for Basquiat exhibition at the AGO go on sale Jan. 23; draw for free opening celebration opens online today

Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time opens on Feb. 7; AGO offers extended public hours three Fridays in February

TORONTO—An overnight celebrity and art world superstar by age 20, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) became famous for his powerful paintings that referenced the world around him—art history, music, the urban environment and popular culture-—to explore issues of race, identity and social injustice. His groundbreaking vision comes to Toronto this winter for the first major exhibition of his works in Canada. Opening on Feb. 7, 2015, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and running to May 10, 2015, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time will feature over 80 artworks, primarily large-scale paintings and works on paper, from museums and private collections across North America and Europe. Tickets go on sale on Jan. 23, 2015.

To celebrate the launch of this landmark exhibition, the AGO is hosting an unprecedented event on opening night. On Feb. 7 from 6 p.m. to midnight the AGO will open the doors to the city, giving away 3,000 FREE PASSES to Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time, part of a special Public Opening Party. The first 2,000 tickets were made available to 125 community organizations working with youth across Toronto and were fully booked in less than a week. A draw for the remaining 1,000 tickets opens today to the public at, and winners’ names will be drawn and they will be notified by email by Jan. 22, 2015. An all-ages event, the evening features DJs spinning music from Basquiat’s era, remarks by AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum and Breaking the Cycle Break Battle, a break-dancing competition presented in partnership with UNITY Charity showcasing the best break-dancers in the city. Ticket-holders are also welcome to enjoy the other exhibitions on display throughout the entire Gallery for the evening. Bar service will be available for guests 19+.

Timed-entry tickets for Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time are $16.50 for youth ages 17 and under, $21.50 for seniors and $25 for adults. Tickets are available for purchase online at, 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. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at

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.

Visitors can learn more about Basquiat in advance of the exhibition by visiting, where a Basquiat artwork is being featured each week alongside a 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 chosen by a local artist that was inspired by Basquiat or his work. Visitors to the site 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.

Guest curated by renowned Austrian art historian, curator and critic Dieter Buchhart, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time aims to explore many of the artist’s reoccurring motifs and preoccupations, including sampling and scratching, cartoons, saints and heroes. A fashion-world celebrity dubbed the “insider’s-outsider,” Basquiat worked with many significant artists. Included in the exhibition are four of Basquiat’s collaborations with his friend and mentor Andy Warhol. Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Irony of a Negro Policeman (1981), a powerful critique of racial injustice, police brutality in 1980s New York and the incongruous position of black authority;
  • Apples and Lemons (1985), a collaborative work by Andy Warhol and Basquiat, whose partnership was as prolific as it was innovative;
  • The Death of Michael Stewart (1983), a portrait of Basquiat’s friend, the graffiti artist Michael Stewart, who was fatally beaten by NYC police; and
  • Horn Players (1983), a large triptych that pays homage to Basquiat’s musical heroes Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

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

Lead Supporter: Hal Jackman Foundation

Generously supported by: TD Bank Canada | Robert Harding

Government Partner: Government of Ontario

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

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

April 11 – June 12, 2015: From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia

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

Andrea-Jo Wilson; News Officer, AGO Communications

Caitlin Coull; Manager, AGO Communications

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