After Jean-Michel Basquiat - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 24, 2023 | Phillips
  •  “Royalty, heroism, and the streets”
    —Jean Michel Basquiat


    Published by Pace Prints and the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat in 2016, Flexible is a screenprint of the late artist’s wood-panel painting of 1984. Encapsulating his central themes, this piece celebrates Basquiat’s cultural legacy and reflects his lifelong exploration of African American and Caribbean traditions. Here, the figure depicted is a griot: a member of the poet-musician, storyteller class called to preserve a tradition of oral history in West African culture. Grinning, the figure’s abstracted, curving arms raise and loop above the head, crowning himself with a red, haloed crown of thorns. Seeking to canonize the Black male figure, noticeably absent from the history of Western painting, Basquiat visualizes this act of divination, negotiating ethnicity alongside questions of prestige and status. Simultaneously, he incorporates an x-ray vision of the body, as the griot’s lungs, bones, and cranium overlay the skin’s surface in white; thus, these internal structures also act as maps of interior consciousness, negotiating the public and private spheres of identity.


    In Flexible, Basquiat intertwines his diasporic cultural heritage with the urban influences of his New York City upbringing. Physically bringing the street into the studio, the wood panels were sourced from a fence in Basquiat’s backyard during his time in Venice Beach, California. Expressive, thick brushstrokes and frenetic scribbles of color play on top of the white horizontal slats as the 24-color screen-print faithfully recreates the plethora of textures and range of both color and materiality found in Basquiat’s experimental mixed media approach. In dialogue with his earlier prominence as the street artist SAMO, Flexible marks a transmutation of graffiti into a heralded piece of art laden with metaphor and history; this found material transformed into a unique picture support through his creative and experimental approach.


    Subsequently, the wood slat fencing was used in more than 17 paintings between 1984 and 1986. With Flexible being the earliest of these material studies, this piece reflects Basquiat’s adept exploration of the relationship between image and surface, as the application of unorthodox material combinations would continue to define his oeuvre.  


    Flexible —contorting yet unbreakable— this figure stands boldly against the rigidity of the wooden planks, encapsulating Basquiat’s character as a radiant artist negotiating the elite art world through his unique poeticism.

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection



Screenprint in colors, on heavy wove paper, with full margins.
I. 57 3/4 x 42 3/8 in. (146.7 x 107.6 cm)
S. 60 1/4 x 45 5/8 in. (153 x 115.9 cm)

Numbered 4/85 in pencil on the front (there were also 15 artist's proofs), signed and dated '5/13/16' by Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux in pencil (The artist's sisters and administrators of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat) on a Certificate of Authenticity affixed to the reverse, published by Flatiron Editions, New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $127,000

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212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 24-26 October 2023