Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit coming to AGO

A Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit will open at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Feburary.
Visitors are seen gazing at a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting at London's Christie auction house in June of 2013. A new exhibit of the late U.S. artist's work will be coming to the Art Gallery of Ontario in February 2015. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

Jean-Michel Basquiat had a short life, but the artist's exploration of New York street culture has become legendary.

Basquiat, who died in 1988 at age 27 of a drug overdose, gained international recognition by creating powerful works that confronted issues of racism, politics and social hypocrisy, paving the way for black American artists. An exhibition featuring his work is making its only Canadian stop at the Art Gallery of Ontario this winter.

Opening Feb. 7, "Basquiat" will feature more than 140 large-scale paintings and drawings from private collections and public museums across Europe and North America. It is the first thematic examination of his work.

Though Basquiat was not a street artist, his work was linked to the urban environment, beginning in conceptual graffiti, referencing street art in his paintings and using salvaged materials such as abandoned doors and packing crates as canvases, the AGO said Thursday in a release.

In 1976, Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz began spraypainting the walls of lower Manhattan. He started a noise rock band, appeared in Edo Bertoglio's indie film "Downtown 81" and struck up a friendship with Andy Warhol.

In 1982, when he was 21, his first solo show sold out. The sudden popularity gave him the opportunity to share ideas with David Bowie, briefly date Madonna and appear in music videos and on the cover of Time Magazine.

Contemporary rap artists, including Jay-Z, Macklemore and Kanye West have referred to him in their lyrics.

Austrian art historian and critic Dieter Buchhart is curating the show, which will run until May 10 and then travel to Rio de Janeiro next July.