After Jean-Michel Basquiat - Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches Hong Kong Thursday, May 25, 2023 | Phillips
  • One of the most famous American artists of all time, Jean-Michel Basquiat announced himself to New York’s stage as a street poet and subversive street artist in the late 1970s. His unique blend of enigmatic symbols, icons, and aphorisms graced abandoned city walls. Basquiat later turned to painting and drawing, creating an iconoclastic oeuvre centring around the human figure.
    He utilised the creative potential of free association and past experiences, resulting in deeply personal, often autobiographical works. Drawing inspiration from an array of sources, including urban street culture, music, poetry, Christian iconography, African-American and Aztec cultural histories, and diverse art historical references, Basquiat's art is a reflection of his life's kaleidoscopic colours.


    Basquiat at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1984.
    Image: © Tate, London, Artwork: © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
    Licensed by Artestar, New York

    When faced by the titan-critic and post-war elder statesman Henry Geldzahler, Basquiat pricked his horns and laid out that his subject matter was 'Royalty, heroism, and the streets' i. In many ways, the present is a triumphant summary of these three pivotal themes. Basquiat portrays a tribal king, whose raised, interlocked arms exude self-assurance and sovereignty, emblematic of his heroic essence. In this work, Basquiat appears to coronate himself. 
    Born in Brooklyn in 1960 to a Haitian-Puerto Rican family, the artist was forced to endure the deeply embedded racism of American society. His experiences of marginalisation profoundly impacted his life and work, and is reflected in his references to outsider cultures and critiques of mainstream politics.
    Basquiat’s narration of the heroic black male was a focal theme in his body of work. At a young age, while visiting museums, Basquiat noticed the absence of people of colour in Western art, relegated to inferior positions. In response, he elevated his ‘black heroes’ in his paintings, predominantly sportsmen and jazz musicians, and even self-portraits, as key figures, forcefully countering this racial imbalance. He later moved on to conveying them as divine beings or kings, with the original Flexible, executed in 1983, ushering in this new dawn of the black male.



    The original painting of the print: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Flexible, 1984
    Sold by Phillips New York, 17 May 2018 for US$45,315,000 (premium)
    Artwork: © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York 


    This figure is a griot - a storyteller, musician, and purveyor of oral history from West African culture, and is as much a divine apparition as a living human being. One of Basquiat’s constant avatars, his depiction of griots gives voice to a legacy that was long suppressed, emphasising the importance of storytelling and oral history in preserving cultural identity for future generations. With its austere and assertive background surface, the figure references sculptural representations of the deific. An oversized head, wide, slanted and partially closed eyes, a broad flat nose and mouth with prominent teeth, and cowry shells surrounding the eyes and along the hairline all indicate that Basquiat was influenced by sub-Saharan African source material. Instilling his figure with the same attributes of dignity, power and the sacred, the artist made an even stronger statement by devising a new picture support for his paintings of divinity figures.



    Bamana peoples, Mother and Child, 18th Century
    Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


    Evoking malleability and adaptability, Flexible is a term that, is defined as bending without breaking, easily moulded, and responsive to new circumstances. The unbridled and uninhibited arm movements captured reveal a sense of freedom and playfulness, a deviation from the orderly and regimented picture support. This unconventional approach is a testament to Basquiat's confident and audacious artistic vision. He stretches the limits of the human form, capturing the figure's arms as they extend upward and join together, symbolising both heroism and sanctity. Basquiat takes risks, exploring new territory and expanding his pictorial language, confident in his ability to mould and shape his subjects to his will: limbs are elastic, strong, and resilient, contorting but never breaking.


    Collector’s Digest


    • The work is a posthumous release stamped and signed by Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, the artist's sisters and administrators of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

    • Previous editions have performed exceptionally well at auction, most recently for US$88,000 at Phillips New York in October 2021.

    • The self-taught painter embraced graffiti before committing to a studio practice. Across his oeuvre, Basquiat drew on his own Caribbean heritage; a convergence of African American, African, and Aztec cultural histories; classical themes; and pop cultural figures including athletes and musicians. The immediacy and intellectual depth of his paintings won him widespread acclaim both before and after his untimely death at the age of 27. 

    • Basquiat’s paintings now belong in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others.


    i Henry Geldzahler, ‘Art: From Subways to Soho, Jean-Michel Basquiat’, Interview, 13 January 1983 

    • Provenance

      EricArt UK Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Fred Hoffman, The Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat , New York, 2017, p. 244 (original work illustrated, p. 46)



numbered 'AP 10/15' lower right
screenprint in colours on heavy wove paper with full margins
153.5 x 116 cm. (60 3/8 x 45 5/8 in.)
Published by Flatiron Editions, New York in 2016 based on a 1984 painting, this work is artist's proof 10 from an edition of 85 plus 15 artist’s proofs, and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat and signed, numbered and dated by administrators of the Estate.

Full Cataloguing

HK$450,000 - 650,000 

Sold for HK$533,400

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Anastasia Salnikoff
Head of Mid-Season Sales
+852 2318 2014

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+852 2318 2001

Disruptors: Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Design and Watches

Hong Kong Auction 25 May 2023