Jean-Michel Basquiat - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 15, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
    Private Collection
    Private Collection, Geneva

  • Exhibited

    Zurich, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Jean-Michel Basquiat, January 1 – February, 16, 1985
    Hannover, Kestnergesellschaft, Jean-Michel Basquiat: To Repel Ghosts, November 28, 1986 – January 25, 1987
    Malmö, Rooseum, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, April 8 – May 28, 1989
    Marseille, Musée Cantini, Jean-Michel Basquiat – Une Rétrospective, July 4 – September 20, 1992
    Trieste, Civico Museo Revoltella Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Jean-Michel Basquiat, May 15, 1999 – September 15, 1999
    Lugano, Museo d’Arte Moderna, Jean-Michel Basquiat, March 20 – June 19, 2005

  • Literature

    Jean-Michel Basquiat, exh. cat., Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, 1985, p. 9, no. 3 (illustrated)
    C. Haenlein, R. Thompson, Jean-Michel Basquiat: To Repel Ghosts, exh. cat., Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover, 1986, p. 73 (illustrated)
    F. Roos, J. Deitch, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, exh. cat., Rooseum, Malmö, 1989, p. 42, no. 21 (illustrated)
    M. Enrici, J.M. Basquiat, Paris: Editions de la Différence, 1989, p. 95 (illustrated)
    B. Millet, Jean-Michel Basquiat – Une Rétrospective, exh. cat., Musée Cantini, Marseille, 1992, p. 131 (illustrated)
    R. Marshall, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1992-1993, p. 34 (illustrated)
    R. Marshall, J. Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris: Galerie Enrico Navarra, 1996, vol. II, p. 136, no. 8
    Jean-Michel Basquiat, exh. cat., Civico Museo Revoltella Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Trieste, 1999, p. 85 (illustrated)
    L. Marenzi, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Milan: Charta Edizioni, 1999, p. 85 (illustrated)
    R. Marshall, J. Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris: Galerie Enrico Navarra, 2000, p. 220 (illustrated)
    Jean-Michel Basquiat, exh. cat., Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, 2005, p. 75, no. 34 (illustrated)
    R. Chiappini, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Skira: Milan, 2005, p. 75, no. 34 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    As Basquiat approached the age of 24, his reputation as a central figure of the burgeoning art world of the 1980s was firmly established; he graced the covers of magazines, enjoyed a jet-setting lifestyle that took him to Paris, Hawaii and Africa, and was prominent in social circles. Yet Basquiat’s keen sense self-awareness as an artist had not retreated an inch, and his work continued to be as radical as when he had burst onto the scene four years before. On the surface of his canvases, he wrestled with his personal demons and continually challenged his artistic forbearers, exhibiting his conscientiousness just as much as his willingness to live on the edge.

    Rodo, 1984, possesses a harrowing and deceptive serenity that that eludes many of Basquiat’s early works. This seemingly placid scene is held taut by a psychological tension and frisson that shares a direct affinity with his aggressive compositions of a few years before. Approaching a nearly classical level of balance, Basquiat’s picture is a fascinating study of his astounding facility to imbue an economically rendered figure with a universe of pathos.

    The central figure of the piece blazes forth in a deep royal blue and an interplay of red and orange, with highlights of chocolate brown by her ankles and black scattered around her torso. Teetering on the edge of a sculpturally rendered chair, she sits in an almost contraposto pose, contorting herself for the sake of the classical ideal. She appears to tilt toward the viewer, showcasing her neckline and full breasts in order to assert her femininity. Elsewhere, the white background fades to delicate shadow around a bright blue window, hinting at a sky full of stars outside.

    In one of the foremost appraisals of Basquiat’s body of work, entitled “Royalty, Heroism, and the Streets: The Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat,” Robert Farris Thompson also finds the stylistic idiosyncrasies of Rodo to be a major turn in Basquiat’s work in 1984. He even goes so far as to hint at Basquiat’s shift towards a new cadre of influences: “Take Rodo, of 1984. Stylistic means are intense and sparing: blue person, red garment, brown and black chair, white walls, and purple sky through window. There are no texts. The lips of the figure strikingly depart from the bony rictus of Basquiat skulls and masks. The white works well, compressing chair and figure. The latter is stylistically tortured, in a Francis Bacon sort of way. In addition, the acid purple in the window possibly traces to the same British hand.” (R. Thompson, “Royalty, Heroism, and the Streets: The Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat”, Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York, 1993, p.33)

    Thompson’s speculation at the presence of Bacon’s influence is not the only postulation we could make to that end. Indeed, Basquiat’s formal excellence in the present lot conjures a multitude of past artists. In the chair at right—spindly, plain, elongated—we find the sculptural influence of Alberto Giacometti, whose psychological motifs resonate with Basquiat’s own brand of expressionism. Basquiat’s conscious incorporation of these dissonant styles was not heavily documented, yet Basquiat rarely made statements as to the direct influence and significance of his work.

    Basquiat, in choosing to place his figure alone in a room upon a single chair, falls in line with the long existentialist tradition of the contemplative figure. While Bacon’s own brand of lone self-portraiture and figure painting dealt dominantly with pure introspection—the logical consequence of which was a preoccupation with death—here, Basquiat’s female figure, rigid in posture and bound to her four-legged prison, we find a more pointed type of introspection: a figure shouldering the burden of cultural weight, from a variety of countries and traditions.

    But three qualities of Rodo, 1984, are perhaps the most distinguishable in terms of their correlative historical counterparts. Basquiat’s use of blue is wildly similar to Henri Matisse both in hue and field, as he chooses to color the face of his figure with a dark, luxurious tone. Secondly, the fluidity of the figure, combined with her chromatic multiplicity, echoes the work of Ernst Kirchner and the Expressionist movement of Die Brucke. These three dissonant influences show Basquiat’s piece to be truly global in its scope, incorporating the artists from a multitude of eras on a multitude of continents.

    Basquiat’s singular ability for integrating and surpassing the hands of his many influences with a flourish that is unmistakably his own can be summed up in a term coined by Robert Farris Thompson: self-creolization—“From painting to painting we recognize a major source of power-self-creolization. This simply means being fluent in several languages and knowing how to fuse them to effect.”(R. Thompson, “Royalty, Heroism, and the Streets: The Art of Jean-Michel Basquiat”, Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York, 1993, p.33) Simultaneously, Basquiat creates an original composition unlikely to be mistaken for a work by any other artist, while positioning a wealth of art history between the seams of his work. It was a practice in which he was skilled. But the brushstrokes of Rodo, 1984 make it clear that it is a picture without equal.

  • Artist Biography

    Jean-Michel Basquiat

    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.

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acrylic on canvas
66 1/8 x 60 1/4 in. (168 x 153 cm.)
Signed, titled and dated “‘Rodo’ Jean Michel Basquiat 1984” on the reverse.

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $3,021,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 May 2014 7PM