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A young man stands in front of his painting
Jean-Michel Basquiat, circa 1985.
(Rose Hartman / Getty Images)

10 of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s beloved Los Angeles haunts

Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, born and raised in Brooklyn, was integral to Manhattan’s experimental, 1980s-era art scene. But the late artist had an important history in Los Angeles. He spent about a year and a half living here between 1982 and 1984. He at first stayed with art dealer Larry Gagosian at his Market Street house in Venice. Later, Basquiat leased a nearby studio.

Basquiat returned to L.A. throughout the ’80s and sometimes made stopovers here on his way to and from Hawaii, where he liked to vacation. While living here, he was extremely focused and prolific — he made about 100 paintings in that time.

‘Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure,’ produced by the late artist’s sisters, features more than 200 paintings, drawings and ephemera from the family’s estate, and immersive re-creations of places important to him.

March 29, 2023

Many of Basquiat’s favorite haunts, such as the nightclub Power Tools — co-founded by Jon Sidel and Matt Dike and at which Basquiat DJ’d —are no longer around. Others, such as the original Spago restaurant, the Maxfield Blue store and Larry Gagosian Gallery, have changed locations and, in some cases, tweaked their names (the store is now Maxfield, the gallery is Gagosian).

But some of the places around town where Basquiat enjoyed spending time are still here. Here are a few of them.

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A view from above of a restaurant dining room with a checkerboard floor and white-clothed tables.
Mr Chow
(From Mr Chow)

Mr Chow

Beverly Hills Chinese Cuisine
Mr Chow was one of Basquiat’s favorite lunch spots in the early ’80s. He often went there with Madonna, whom he was dating at the time, and art dealer Larry Gagosian.
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The Chateau Marmont.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision/AP)

Chateau Marmont

West Hollywood Hotel
When Basquiat visited L.A. for his first West Coast exhibition, at Larry Gagosian Gallery in spring 1982, he stayed at the Chateau Marmont.
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Three men making art prints in a workshop.
The Gemini G.E.L. print workshop in 2016.
(Stuart Palley / For The Times)

Gemini G.E.L.

Beverly Grove Arts
Basquiat visited artist Robert Rauschenberg while the latter was making prints at the historic Gemini G.E.L. in the early ’80s. Those visits inspired Basquiat’s more abstract drawings at the time.
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The L'Hermitage Hotel with large trees out front.
The L’Hermitage Hotel.
(FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

L’Ermitage Hotel

Beverly Hills Hotel
In the early ’80s, Basquiat lived in a Venice studio a block from the beach. But the artist also stayed, for stretches of time, at L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills while painting in his studio by day. Writer-director Tamra Davis’ 2010 documentary, “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” includes interviews with the artist shot at the hotel.
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The marquis of the Nuart Theatre.
The Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, pictured in spring 2020.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Nuart Theatre

Sawtelle Movie Theater
Basquiat was a film buff and particularly loved the films of Jean-Luc Godard and Alfred Hitchcock. The Nuart Theatre was one of his beloved L.A. spots to catch a movie.
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Expensive sports cars parked in front of Spago, with people and valets standing on the sidewalk
Spago’s exterior.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Spago

Beverly Hills Southern California Fusion
After Basquiat’s second solo exhibition in L.A., in 1983 at Larry Gagosian Gallery, there was a celebratory dinner for the artist at Spago, then on Horn Avenue in West Hollywood. The restaurant has since changed locations but has a storied history. Among the guests at Basquiat’s party that night: rap musician and artist Rammellzee and painter Toxic, who’d traveled with him from New York for the event.
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A red-tinged photo of a man in an art gallery.
Basquiat took this photo of art dealer Larry Gagosian, in his West Hollywood gallery, in 1983.
(From Gagosian)

Gagosian

Beverly Hills Art Gallery
Art dealer Larry Gagosian arranged for Basquiat’s first West Coast exhibition in spring 1982 at his eponymous gallery, then located in West Hollywood. The gallery presented the artist’s second solo exhibition in L.A. in spring 1983 — by then the gallery had moved to a larger space, also in West Hollywood. There was a 1986 Basquiat show there as well. The gallery is now called Gagosian and it’s in Beverly Hills. But the connection to Basquiat is still deep: The artist lived with Gagosian in Venice Beach in late 1982-83 while making new works for his second show.
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A black-and-white photo of babboon sculptures in a store courtyard.
Maxfield on Melrose Avenue.
(From Maxfield)

Maxfield

West Hollywood Gift Store
When he lived in L.A. in the early 1980s, Basquiat loved to shop for clothes at the Maxfield Blue boutique, then located in West Hollywood. The store now is called Maxfield and has locations on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood and in Malibu.
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A person bikes along the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
A person biking along the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Venice Boardwalk Bike Rental

Venice Family Ride
After Basquiat moved out of Larry Gagosian’s house in 1983, he rented a studio on Market Street, a block from the Venice Boardwalk and close to the ocean. Basquiat didn’t drive, so when he wasn’t working, he got around Venice by bike.
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A view over a city illuminated at night.
The San Fernando Valley as seen at dusk from Mulholland Drive.
(Rob Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Mulholland Drive lookout point

Studio City Family Ride
Basquiat didn’t drive — when the New York artist was living in L.A., friends such as filmmaker Tamra Davis and music executive Matt Dike drove him around. When Madonna came to visit, she took the wheel. Regardless of who was in the driver’s seat, Basquiat loved to ride along Mulholland Drive at night, taking in the view of the sparkling city lights below. This lookout point has one of the best views.
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