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Jay-Z Is Lending His $4 Million Basquiat Painting To A New York City Police Brutality Exhibit

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Jay-Z is a well-known patron of the arts as well as being a criminal justice reform activist, so it’s only right that he combines the two interests for a good cause. Page Six reports that the hip-hop mogul donated a rare piece from his personal collection — Basquiat’s “CPRKR” — to the Guggenheim for a New York art exhibit confronting police brutality. Defacement: The Untold Story, which opened Friday, is dedicated to Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work from the early ’80s exploring Black identity and his protest against police violence following the death of artist Michael Stewart in 1983.

Stewart was allegedly beaten to death by six New York City police officers when he was arrested for tagging a First Avenue subway station. The officers in question were acquitted, leaving Stewart’s family alleging a cover-up and deepening the city’s racial tensions between Black citizens and police. The Guggenheim’s exhibit includes Basquiat’s painting The Death of Michael Stewart, informally known as Defacement, with twenty other paintings and sketches from Basquiat and other artists.

Jean-Michel Basquiat/ Fair Use

Defacement was originally painted on the wall of Keith Haring’s studio and was not meant to be seen publicly. Other items featured in the exhibit include newspaper clippings and protest posters from the year’s surrounding Stewart’s death, along with Haring’s Michael Stewart—U.S.A. for Africa, Andy Warhol’s screenprinted “headline” paintings from 1983 incorporating a New York Daily News article on Stewart’s death, David Hammons’ The Man Nobody Killed series of stenciled prints. “CPRKR” dates from one year previous to the death of Stewart and consists of acrylic and crayon on canvas as an homage to the jazz musician Charlie Parker. Jay bought the painting in 2013 for a reported $4.5 million.

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