Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 10, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the Estate of Andy Warhol

  • Exhibited

    New York, Gagosian Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat & Andy Warhol: Collaboration Paintings, May 23 - June 22, 2002

  • Literature

    H. Als, Jean-Michel Basquiat & Andy Warhol: Collaboration Paintings, New York, Gagosian Gallery, 2002, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat joined forces in the 1980s to form one of the greatest artistic collaborations of the Post-War era. Their friendship began at a remarkable junction; Warhol’s practice was achieving a sophisticated maturity, and Basquiat’s career was just beginning. The friendship of these two very different figures—one of the foremost art figures of the time, and the wünderkind of the 1980s—aided each man’s mission to continue creating the most dynamic works of the Twentieth Century. Basquiat lent an expressive painterly quality and a touch of mischief to Warhol’s synthesis of images and media icons. While each of their styles is unique, their combination yields bold and symbiotic works.

    The present lot, Del Monte, 1984-1985, is a striking homage to the styles that defined both artists’ work and celebrity. Here we see a synthesis of two visual languages, which, together, create a compelling dialogue. We see both Warhol’s stylized use of corporate logos in the central placement of “Del Monte”, of which he created an entire body of work in the 1960s, as well as Basquiat’s visceral and raw style of brushwork around the central logo. Both artists’ use of popular culture creates a harmonious portrait of both the times and styles in which they were working. Del Monte, 1984-1985 is bold and visually complex in its use of color and collage. In order to create this collaboration, the artists would alternately layer the canvas with their distinct brands – instead of creating a disjointed painting, the result is one of dynamic and powerful tension between past and present, seasoned master and young prodigy. With many of the collaborations revealing multifaceted layers of iconography, there is clear evidence that beneath the blanket of dark pigments, lies a world of Warhol and Basquiat motifs. Here, the harmony of the composition celebrates the frenetic exhilaration of youth and the cumulative experience of age.

    The historic pairing of Warhol and Basquiat was two years in the making. In 1982, when Basquiat was at the height of his creative powers, he had traveled to Zurich for a week to paint and cultivate a relationship with famed Swiss dealer Bruno Bischofberger. Basquiat, ever shrewd, understood that the favor of Bischofberger, who also happened to be Warhol’s gallerist and dealer, would be the ideal point of entry to the Pop Art master, whom he had endeavored to meet for a number of years. Warhol, on the other hand, was not nearly so keen to meet the young graffiti artist from the East Village. On October 4, 1982, Basquiat finally secured an invite to Warhol’s storied Union Square studio, the Factory.

    As Warhol later wrote in his diary “Down to meet Bruno Bischofberger (cab $7.50). He brought Jean-Michel Basquiat with him. He’s the kid who used the name ‘Samo’ when he used to sit on the sidewalk in Greenwich Village and paint T-shirts, and I’d give him $10 here and there and send him up to Serendipity to try to sell the T-shirts there. He was just one of those kids who drove me crazy... And so had lunch for them and then I took a Polaroid and he went home and within two hours a painting was back, still wet, of him and me together. And I mean, just getting to Christie Street must have taken an hour.” (Andy Warhol, “October 4, 1982”, The Andy Warhol Diaries, New York, 1989, p. 462).

    The Polaroids had been taken at Bischoberger’s urging; he wanted Warhol to make a portrait of Basquiat, reasoning that such a work would increase the importance of the rising 22 year-old star. According to Bischofberger, “The whole Factory and everyone who was there was admiring it, and Andy said, “I’m really jealous. He’s faster than I am.’ Those were his words. I can still hear him saying that.” (Bruno Bischofberger, quoted by P. Hoban in Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art, pp. 140-141). Bob Colacello remembered Warhol gushingly telling Basquiat, “I mean, you’re faster than Picasso. God, that’s greaaaat.” (B. Colacello, quoted in ibid., p. 141).

    Warhol and Basquiat’s friendship blossomed over the ensuing two years, and they both were eager to take on Bischofberger’s 1984 commission. Keith Haring poignantly articulated the pitch-perfect harmony between Basquiat and Warhol: “The collaborations were seemingly effortless. It was physical conversation happening in paint instead of words. The sense of humor, the snide remarks, the profound realizations, the simple chit-chat all happened with paint and brushes...There was a sense that one was watching something being unveiled and discovered for the first time. It seemed to push him to new heights, Andy returned to painting with beautiful, delicate lines, carefully laid into the canvas. The drips and gestures immediately reminded me of the earliest Warhol paintings I had seen. The new scale had forced him to develop an even richer draftsmanship. The lines flowed onto the canvas.” (K. Haring, “Painting the Third Mind,” Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York, 2009, p. 298).

    The first layer of Del Monte, circa 1984-85, undoubtedly began with Warhol’s hand, who had been inspired by Basquiat to take up the brush again after years of exclusively using his iconic screen printing techniques. While Warhol has previously stamped “Del Monte” across countless boxes, here it is rendered in gestural brushstrokes, lending the surface more complexity and variance. Basquiat remarked to Bischofberger “Andy is such a fantastic painter! His hand painting is as good as it was in his early years. I am going to try and convince him to start painting by hand again.” (B. Bischofberger, “Collaborations and Reflections on/and Experiences with Basquiat, Clemente and Warhol,” The Andy Warhol Show, Milan, 2004, p. 43). The extensive brushwork around the central motif, is undoubtedly attributed to Basquiat, who had a tendency to mask his canvases in thick applications of pigment. This technique is evident in Basquiat’s Max Roach, 1984, in which red and white paint cloaks almost the entirety of the canvas, leaving only a glimpse of a figure at a drum set in the upper right qaudrant.

    In his signature adaptation of commercial logos, Warhol rendered the “Del Monte” logo in vibrant reds and yellows in the center of the canvas. It is possible that in this simple, sign-like condition, the work was then delivered to Basquiat, who painted over nearly the entirety of the surface in mysterious dark blue and deep green pigments, covering the canvas with furious and expressive brushstrokes. Complimenting the pervasive bright logo, Basquiat’s palette of murky green powerfully surrounds the glowing center of the canvas. Unpacking the formal structure of the picture, Basquiat’s strokes concede to the Warhol central stamp—the painting’s center of gravity. Though Basquiat’s youthful exuberance presses energetically in from the sides, like eager children seeking an audience with a favorite teacher, it is Warhol’s “Del Monte” logo that maintains control of the middle of the composition. Del Monte, 1984-85, is a lasting legacy to both artists and to the friendship they shared, embodying the iconic styles that secured their places in the pantheon of history’s foremost creative greats.

    While both artists have infused the painting with their own iconography, the composition is gestalt in nature. The hands of both Warhol and Basquiat dominate the figurative space of the picture, adhering to classical landscape painting; with the blue sky above and rolling green sea below. The central logo shines beneath the layers of pigment like the protagonist of a historical narrative. Though styles as disparate as Warhol’s and Basquiat’s coalesce into such a seminally novel painting, Del Monte, 1984-1985, ultimately comes to resemble styles both modern and classical. The marriage of the hands of two masters is not just an integration of young and old, Pop Art and Neo-Expressionism; it is also a reminder that, in joining styles, we see the remnants of the past and the ideas of the future.


Del Monte

circa 1984-1985
synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas
76 x 88 in. (193 x 223.5 cm)
Stamped twice by the Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. on the overlap and numbered PA99.032 on the stretcher.

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $1,082,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 May 2012
New York