A way to share and manage lots.
HK$3,900,000 - 5,500,000
sold for HK$4,300,000
Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo
Christie's, New York, 18 May 2001, Lot 502
Christie's, New York, 11 November 2010, Lot 343
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
The rare paper work Hong Kong was created in 1985, following Jean-Michel Basquiat’s trip to the city in April of the same year. At the time, Basquiat travelled with the restaurateur and artist Michael Chow and his then-wife Tina, spending two weeks in the city.
At first glance, Hong Kong features almost-caricatures of a cartoonish, exoticised “Far East”: a dragon’s head, a waving gorilla resembling King Kong, a grotesque face mask of sorts, the top half of a horse’s head. And yet, it is evident that even in such a seemingly simple piece, the artist has deftly incorporated more detailed remnants of the city: an electrical diagram for what appears to be a television screen, an unsurprising addition, considering that the VHS version of the widely popular King Kong vs. Godzilla became available in the same year, 1985. The nonsensical extract “For Stop The Itchy Empitigo Fleas Fleas”, presumably taken from an advertisement for ointment, can additionally be taken as vestiges of the artist’s memories and observations while in the city. When counted among the entirety of the artist’s other allusions to fleas, leeches, and parasites—all metaphors for a depletion of life—one might lend an ironic, almost humorous connection to the words’ proximity to the depicted horse in Hong Kong.
The piece’s display of Xerox collage also aptly captures the artist’s techniques from the late 1980s. Prior to his forays as an artist, Basquiat sold baseball cards and postcard collages, and in his later career, used Xerox collage as a way to inject a distinctive aesthetic into his pieces. Constantly making notes and drawings, the draughtsman Basquiat was known to fervently scrawl on quite literally any surface: fridge doors, windows, later Xeroxing these jottings to paste onto canvases. One might imagine the artist similarly scribbling against the streets and pavements of Hong Kong, hungrily taking notes as he traversed the new city.
The artist was drawn to Xerox because of its flat shininess, but perhaps most alluring was the ease with which his drawings could be reproduced, a potent nod to his past as a graffiti artist operating under the moniker “Samo”. Notably, Hong Kong features the copyright symbol—next to presumably King Kong—another carryover from Basquiat’s graffiti period along with the crown. Thus drawing our attention to the jest: Hong Kong King Kong, a little rhyme that remains; the butt of a private joke.
Hong Kong can be counted amongst the artist’s Xerox collage works—but most importantly, it is an extremely rare piece featuring the artist’s memories of an exciting and exotic new city. With its incorporation of bright colours, the work is a potent reminder of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s youth and vitality.
Phillips had the privilege of speaking to Michael Chow aka M, who invited Jean-Michel Basquiat to Hong Kong in April 1985, following a friendship of half a decade prior to the artist’s trip to the city. In the below excerpt, M recounts some of his memories of the artist’s excursion to Asia, the young Basquiat’s inquisitive mind, his rebellious sense of humour, and his deeply rooted devotion to his mother.
Phillips: How did you and Basquiat initially meet?
Michael Chow aka M: He gave me a calling card—he was very ambitious—and he gave me a painting, of 4 or 5 feet, and we became very good friends ever since. It was love at first sight.
P: How did the idea of going to Hong Kong together in 1985 come about? Could you share with us some of your memories?
M: I was with my then-wife, Tina, and the three of us went to Hong Kong [together]. It was a very nice trip. We stayed at the Peninsula. I took him to all the tailors, and he made something like, one and a half dozen suits, 18 suits, all in different colours and materials, so he was really into it. I was invited to dinner by the director of Tiffany and his friend, and I said, well, I am with Jean-Michel Basquiat, and we all went to dinner, to Gaddi’s—a very expensive restaurant as you know, fine dining. And during dinner—I don’t think he [Basquiat] liked my host very much—He was very rebellious, and so ordered the most expensive wine, you know, it was outrageous, this bottle of wine!
We had a lot of fun in Hong Kong, we went to all the restaurants we usually go to, and on our way back on the aeroplane, the plane was very empty in First Class, and we talked a lot about his past: how he loved his mother, how he was very sad as his mother was not very well, and how close he was to his mother…We were very close.
P: It must have been very difficult when he passed away, because of how close you two were.
M: Very difficult. He was one of these people that I instantly bonded with, and I had a great friendship with him…[He] was a memorable human being…very different from other people: more sensitive, more talented [than everyone else]…
P: It’s such a shame that he is no longer with us…Did he express what he particularly liked about Hong Kong? Did he say any comments that stuck out to you?
M: I think he really liked it. He’s comfortable anywhere you take him—he’s one of these people. He’s very hungry to learn everything; learn everything in the world that he’s not familiar with. All the luxury stuff—he loved: he learned a lot from Andy [Warhol], he learned all about wine…even the suits! All the suits we made: he wanted to learn everything, how to do this, and that. And I too, am very curious. And, Hong Kong—what is there not to like about Hong Kong? It’s a fantastic city.
P: In the piece (Hong Kong), it seems to draw from some objects Basquiat might have found in Hong Kong—there’s an ad for something like an ointment, electrical diagrams, and a dragon’s head maybe from a dragon dance. Do you have any particular memories you could share that might indicate where he took them from?
M: …From what you’ve just said, the dragon head reminds me of his [own] head…[Dragons] are very violent, very fierce, [and when taken with] all of Hong Kong’s imagery, [perhaps this] can be related to his “primitive violence”, if you will…He always picked up local culture, his drawings were amazing, he recorded everything with his drawings, and Hong Kong was somewhere that was very exotic for him, so he automatically picked these objects.
Phillips wishes to thank Michael Chow for his kind assistance.
《香港》這件罕見的紙上作品，是尚•米榭•巴斯奇亞在1985年四月走訪這座城市之後所創作，當時他與身兼餐飲業鉅子及藝術家的周英華以及第二任妻子周天娜一同在香港遊歷了兩周。 乍看之下，《香港》一作似乎充滿了「遠東」的異國情調，以及像是卡漫一般的符號，例如龍頭、一隻貌似金剛在揮手的大猩猩、古怪的面具，以及被橫切了的馬頭上半部等等。然而，即使在這樣一幅看似單純的作品，藝術家依舊巧妙地將香港這個城市的片段置入於其中：也有看起來像是電視機螢幕的一張電路圖，讓人不禁聯想起在1985同年放映並大受歡迎的「金剛大戰哥吉拉」這部片子的錄影帶版本。「止癢膿瘡跳蚤跳蚤」這般讓人摸不著頭緒的隻字片語也出現在畫面上，推測應該是巴斯奇亞在藥膏廣告上所摘節下的字句，也可視為他對於香港所留存的回憶及觀察。當我們回顧他整個生涯作品中所出現的跳蚤、水蛭及寄生蟲，這些生物皆是用以隱喻生命力的消逝，而回頭來看《香港》這件作品，就不難意會到這些看似無厘頭的字眼與那半個馬頭既諷刺又幽默的連結。 作品中以複印的圖片拼貼的方式，也極為適切地呈現了巴斯奇亞在1980年代晚期所鍾愛的創作手法。在他成為藝術家之前，曾經販賣過棒球卡以及明信片拼貼，在稍後則是加入了用複印拼貼方式，成就其作品中獨特的美感。巴斯奇亞總是不斷在寫筆記及塗鴉，狂熱地在各種各樣的表面上繪製塗鴉，無論是冰箱門或窗戶等等，然後他再將這些隨筆的文字或圖畫複印起來，貼到畫布上。我們不難想像他初次來到香港這個新地方的時候，逗留於大街小巷、如飢似渴地隨手塗鴉、寫手札的樣子。 巴斯奇亞之所以會被複印吸引，是因為它具光澤的平面效果所致，但也許更是因為複印提供了最容易能將他的素描複製其來的方法，這也許也和他曾以「Samo」之名成為街頭塗鴉藝術家的過去大有關聯。其中令人注意到的是，他在那個看似金剛的圖像旁邊，寫上了香港，並加上其如註冊商標的符號，這個符號也是從他街頭塗鴉時期所延伸下來的，就如同也十分常見於他作品中的皇冠圖樣一樣。此外，香港及金剛的英文兩字押韻，巴斯奇亞在此再度地展現了他低調的幽默。 《香港》不僅僅是其複印拼貼系列的代表之作，更難能可貴的是，這件作品罕見地捕捉了巴斯奇亞對於走訪一個新奇城市的回憶，在此作中大量使用明亮的色彩，也再再讓人感受到藝術家當時充沛的生命力及青春年華。 富藝斯有幸訪問到又名為Ｍ的周英華。他和尚‧米榭‧巴斯奇亞相交5年之後，於1985年4月成功邀請巴斯奇亞訪港。以下訪談節錄中，Ｍ詳述關於巴斯奇亞亞洲之行的回憶、這位年輕藝術家的好奇心、帶有反叛的幽默感，以及他對母親的深厚感情。 富藝斯：你和巴斯奇亞是怎樣相識的？ 周英華（以下稱Ｍ）：他給我一張名片──他滿是雄心壯志──他還給我一幅畫作，大約4呎或5呎，我們從此成為很要好的朋友，是一見如故。 富：1985年同遊香港的想法是怎樣出現的？可以和我們分享一些回憶嗎？ Ｍ：我和當時的太太Tina，還有巴斯奇亞三人同行，前往香港。那是一次愉快的旅程。我們住在半島酒店。我帶他找不同的裁縫，他訂製了大概一打半的西裝，18套，顏色和布料全都不一樣，他真的對這件事很起勁。Tiffany董事和他的朋友邀我共進晚餐，我就說，我正和巴斯奇亞一起，於是我們就一同赴宴，地點為Gaddi’s，是一家餐飲精緻的高級餐廳。晚餐期間──我覺得巴斯奇亞並不太喜歡宴請我們的主人──他很反叛，點了最昂貴的酒。那瓶酒，實在太嚇人！ 我們在香港找到不少樂趣。去了許多常去的餐廳。在回程的飛機上，頭等艙沒幾個人，我們談了很多關於他的過去：對他母親的愛，並因母親身體欠佳而感到傷心，還有他們之間的關係是多麼親密…...當時我們是十分親近的朋友。 富：正因為你們如此親近，他去世時你一定很傷心。 Ｍ：非常傷心。他是少數能讓我一見如故的人，我們之間有極深厚的情誼……（他）是個令人難忘的人……和其他人很不同：（比其他人）更敏感，更有天賦。 富：很可惜他已經離開我們……他有沒有提過特別喜歡香港的哪一點呢？有沒有幾句評價，令你特別印象深刻？ Ｍ：我覺得他很喜歡香港。無論你帶他到哪裡，他都悠然自得──他就是那種人。他渴望了解一切事物，學習世上所有他不熟悉的事。所有的豪華東西，他都喜歡：他從安廸‧沃何身上學到很多，學習了解酒……甚至西裝！我們訂製了那麼多西裝：他想了解一切，各種事都是怎樣做的。而我也是個很好奇的人。而且，香港──會有什麼令人不喜歡的事呢？它是個妙不可言的城市。 富：《香港》這件作品的意念似乎來自巴斯奇亞在香港看到的一些物件──裡面有一些類似藥膏的廣告、電子圖表，還有可能來自舞龍道具的龍頭。你可否分享一些有可能顯示他靈感來源的特別回憶呢？ Ｍ：……從你剛剛所說的，龍頭令我想起他（自己）的頭……（龍）很暴力，很兇猛，香港的圖像（放在一起時），也許你可以說，（這或者）和他的「原始暴力」有關……他總是在汲取本地文化，他的畫作令人驚艷，他在畫作中記錄了一切。而香港對他而言，是個異常迷人的地方，所以他自然而然地採用了這些物件。 富藝斯在此鳴謝周英華撥冗受訪。
American • 1960 - 1988
One of the most famous American artists of all time, Jean-Michel Basquiat first gained notoriety as a subversive graffiti-artist and street poet in the late 1970s. Operating under the pseudonym SAMO, he emblazoned the abandoned walls of the city with his unique blend of enigmatic symbols, icons and aphorisms. A voracious autodidact, by 1980, at 22-years of age, Basquiat began to direct his extraordinary talent towards painting and drawing. His powerful works brilliantly captured the zeitgeist of the 1980s New York underground scene and catapulted Basquiat on a dizzying meteoric ascent to international stardom that would only be put to a halt by his untimely death in 1988.
Basquiat's iconoclastic oeuvre revolves around the human figure. Exploiting the creative potential of free association and past experience, he created deeply personal, often autobiographical, images by drawing liberally from such disparate fields as urban street culture, music, poetry, Christian iconography, African-American and Aztec cultural histories and a broad range of art historical sources.
HK$3,900,000 - 5,500,000
sold for HK$4,300,000
Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2017