Exceptionally large crowds, approaching 4,000 on some Saturdays, have streamed to the exhibition "Jean-Michel Basquiat" (through Apr. 6), at Gagosian Gallery's 24th Street location. Lines stretched halfway down the block for its opening night. The peak daily attendance for the Basquiat show rivals the average daily figures for some popular international museum shows.
Weekend attendance has often topped 3,000, according to a gallery representative. Weekday traffic has ranged from almost 1,000 to 2,000 per day, "which, for a weekday, is high," said the spokeswoman, who also pointed out that the numbers could climb yet higher, since next week is Armory Art Week in New York, featuring the annual Armory Show, the Independent and satellite fairs.
"Jean-Michel Basquiat" includes more than 50 paintings, spanning the brief career of the legendary New York artist, who died at 27. About a quarter of the works are on loan from public collections, with the remainder from private lenders.
The Art Newspaper's 2012 report on 2011 museum attendance provides average daily figures for the most crowded shows. To put the Basquiat numbers in perspective, the mega-exhibition "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty," at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, drew an average of about 8,000 visitors a day, making it the eighth-most-attended show in the museum's history.
It so happens that the 2010-11 exhibition "Basquiat," at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, clocked an average daily attendance of 3,924. Other exhibitions with similar average attendance: "Gauguin: Maker of Myth," at London's Tate Modern, averaging 3,969, and "Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell," at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., averaging 3,837.
Contributing to the artist's increasing fame have been Julian Schnabel's 1996 biopic Basquiat as well as the 2010 documentary Jean-Michel Basquiat: Radiant Child, directed by Tamra Davis.
PHOTO: Untitled, 1981. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ADAGP, Paris, ARS, New York 2013. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photography by Robert McKeever.