The Hub Attends “Writing the Future Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation” event with Curators Liz Munsell and Greg Tate

This piece was originally published November 2020.

The post graffiti era and culture is captured in the Museum of Fine Arts’ latest exhibition entitled, “Writing the Future Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation”. Words of the movement are intertwined through the pieces of art to express a message of presence that has not always been paid attention to. 

For the past three years Liz Munsell, curator of contemporary art at the MFA, has been putting together this exhibition. One year into the research of it all Greg Tate, writer, musician, producer and some may say expert on Jean-Michel Basuiat joined in on the process. 

Munsell describes the exhibit as one that took a great deal of work as most graffiti work is not public but privately owned. Finding the right pieces to put together the exhibit to send the intended message was a struggle. 

Many modern museums do not hold graffiti work rather it is seemingly still frowned upon in the art community. Even though graffiti has graduated from the sides of trains in New York City to the walls of galleries where people pay thousands of dollars for a piece. The art has not changed rather the way in which it is looked at and displayed. 

In the booming time of graffiti art, the 1980s, per usual artists were not appreciated in their time nor place. Many left for Europe where they were endlessly applauded for their vibrant work. New York City in the year 2012, a similar exhibition was meant to take place, however, public officials put an end to it. There was a deep concern that paying homage to these artists would only invoke illegal behavior among those who still displayed their art on trains and sides of city buildings. 

“I think it’s amazing that this work is finally being given the attention it deserves,” says Meaghan MacDonald ‘22 of Emmanuel College. 

The exhibit is unique in a number of ways. First by existing in a location such as the MFA, a level where this style of art is not typically displayed. Second is the aspect of the exhibition called Table of Voices. The community was interviewed on the exhibition and then incorporated into the process. It was important to the staff at the MFA that the community was involved in this exhibition especially considering the nature of it as well as the current social climate in America. Third is the playlist that Tate curated for the exhibition. The aim with the playlist was to bring people into the setting and time in which the art was originally being created. As Tate talks of the playlist he recalls the way in which some friends he had invited to see the art couldn’t help but break out in dance. 

By the MFA holding an exhibit like this and finally paying well deserved respect to the artists it “puts [them] ahead of the pack,” says Tate. The MFA has already developed something great and started the conversation in which so many are looking to be a part of now. 

Even as people pay thousands for the art that is within this exhibition it is still seen by some in a negative light. The words that artists draw and paint within these pieces look to break from that stigma as well as wash away other social discriminations. During the current pandemic this exhibition is especially important. 

“I hope the show can come through and inspire artists today,” says Munsell in this strange social and political climate we are currently in. 

The exhibition is currently open at the MFA and is until May 16, 2021. One must reserve tickets in advance if they wish to attend and view the exhibition due to COVID restrictions. 

Mary Pociask ’21 is Editor-in-Chief of The Hub. She can be contacted at