Schunck, Heerlen


With friend and artist Jan van der Meer I arrive in Heerlen, south of the Netherlands, in front of a building that is called Glass-palace. Behind a large window a banner announces: Jean-Michel Basquiat.

In the hall of the museum we find Kor Bonnema, the director. He takes us through the cafe to the first floor. On the sides people read at tables, but there are also a strange kind of openwork angled blocks with sloping sides and in the middle it is empty. "The end of Sitting: the idea is to work more standing, people have to move more" Kor explains. We get coffee.


   Kor Bonnema appears to be an ambitious man. From North Groningen, where he did a civil engineering course, he left with his family to the south. Thanks to his studies in business administration, Bonnema was able to work for different municipalities and so ended up in Heerlen. He also worked for about twelve years in the real estate sector. When he was asked in 2013 to make Schunck independent, things went so well that he stayed.

A little later we go down the stairs and arrive at the floor where the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition is. A ten-person team managed to have Queen Máxima open the exhibition. Last week it was shown on TV that she left her signature with a spray can during the ceremony.

A selfie by ex politician Alexander Pechtold with Mayor Emile Roemer appeared on instagram in front of one of the paintings: Kings of Egypt.

   There have recently been several Basquiat exhibitions in Europe such as last year in Shirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt and more recently at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. This Basquiat exhibition - the Artist and his New York Scene - is different; this is about the early years of Basquiat.  
The middle room represents the apartment where Jean-Michel Basquiat lived. There is no bed or easel and no paint splashes on the floor, but there are views made like windows to the outside. Behind it you see photographic impressions of the New York streets of the early 1980s, when he would break through. There are framed notes, may be pages from a diary. A white painter's coat is decorated with red and black paint stripes. Every action has been recorded, his graffiti, scribbles on walls, every wipe and every line has been photographed. A gouache of a clumsy American flag is endearing.  


The Time Square Show in 1980 is described as the breakthrough moment of Jean-Michel Basquiat and is therefore an important item in the exhibition. The works of fellow exhibitors hang on dark walls. What seems like an abstract minimalist work is in reality a porn movie on super-8. The film is cut into strips that are hung next to each other like a vertical orange-pink semi-transparent curtain.  


Typical Basquiat is a piece of paper entitled Pez Dispenser; a dragon with the famous crown.


We arrive at the four masterpieces, paintings from 1982 and 1983.
  Jan wants to show me something in the painting, but he runs his foot across the broad white line on the floor. While I see the attendant coming soon I say: "Jan, not across the line, you know .." Jan looks down, shrugs and chuckles a bit as he steps back.
   "I preceded you," I laugh to the attendant. He takes his chance and with a strong southerly accent he enthusiastically starts to tell what he sees in the paintings: 'This is about racism and look, in the middle painting Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. You see in the face cocaine use.”

From the nostrils you can see a railway line running into the head.   
In my thoughts, I see Jean-Michel in his studio, stoned like a shrimp, stretching the canvases around the frames like an animal skin so the slats come out through the corners.. I see him, possessed and sweaty, with a foot on the wood with one hand pulling and stapling the canvas with the other, making his statement, the indictment against capitalism and racism. And now we are getting too close.

A little later when I start the car and the radio comes on, Jan suddenly says: "Hey, Stientje". Yes, it's her, Jan's daughter. She, now minister, tells on the radio that people have to take the car less. The radio DJ complains that he has to stand on the train so often. We laugh: 'The end of Sitting!' We are still in Heerlen. From 2008 a concrete woman in a green dress by Christel Lechner (1947) sits on a roundabout. Twenty minutes later we enter Belgium.