Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s contribution to the 1987 Luna Luna park was the Painted Ferris Wheel with the soundtrack of the 1986 song Tutu by Miles Davis

For Luna Luna, Jean-Michel Basquiat designed a Ferris wheel on which recurrent subjects from his earlier work appear. The wheel is accompanied by Miles Davis’s 1986 song “Tutu.”

Artist

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Attraction

Painted Ferris wheel with music

Born

1960, USA

Basquiat began his brief but prolific life as an artist painting the tag SAMO across downtown New York as a teenager in the late 1970s

He frequently drew and painted on found surfaces, including wood and even a refrigerator

His works combine figuration and writing to create compositions bursting with tantalizingly inconclusive meanings

Fairground view: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Painted Ferris wheel with music. Luna Luna, Hamburg, Germany, June-July, 1987.

Jean-Michel Basquiat.

One of the most significant artists of the twentieth century, Jean-Michel Basquiat began his brief but prolific life as an artist painting the tag SAMO across downtown New York as a teenager in the late 1970s. Soon entrenched in the downtown cultural scene, he began to paint on canvas, creating compositions that combine numerous ideas—ranging from a celebration of Black music and sports and an exploration of African American history to critiques of abuses of power by the police. 

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Painted Ferris wheel with music, exhibited 1987.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Painted Ferris wheel with music, exhibited 1987.

The classic anatomical reference book Gray’s Anatomy was given to him as a child after he was hit by a car—the visuals from which inspired the exposed skeletons and internal organs of his figures.

Basquiat was a self-taught artist whose symbolic compositions combine colorful, naïve stick figures—appearing as if they are floating in space—with cryptic, poetic words written in assertive capital letters, often repeated and crossed out. Music was hugely influential to Basquiat; he regularly attended Mudd Club and other countercultural venues and formed his own no-wave band, Gray. The band was titled after the classic anatomical reference book Gray’s Anatomy—a book given to him as a child after he was hit by a car—the visuals from which inspired the exposed skeletons and internal organs of his figures.

Fairground view: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Painted Ferris wheel with music. Luna Luna, Hamburg, Germany, June-July, 1987.

For Luna Luna, Basquiat designed a Ferris wheel on which recurrent subjects from his earlier work appear, including jazz musician Charlie Parker (referenced with the song title “Billie’s Bounce” and race (referenced with the words “Jim Crow”). The wheel is accompanied by Miles Davis’s 1986 song “Tutu.” It was only after Heller had secured permission to use the song that Basquiat agreed to create the Ferris wheel.

Fairground view: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Painted Ferris wheel with music. Luna Luna, Hamburg, Germany, June-July, 1987.

Fairground view: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Painted Ferris wheel with music. Luna Luna, Hamburg, Germany, June-July, 1987.

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In the original Luna Luna book, translated and reissued for the first time since 1987.