Jean-Michel Basquiat - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 15, 2012 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Annina Nosei Gallery, New York
    Mr. Darius Glowacki, 1984
    Michelle Rosenfeld Inc., Fine Arts, New Jersey, 1985
    Mr. Joseph McHugh, 1985
    Mr. Tim and Mrs. Janine Netsky
    Michelle Rosenfeld Inc., Fine Arts, New Jersey, 1989
    Mr. and Mrs. Martin Rosenman, 1999
    Marc Grossman, Brussels
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Roslyn Harbor, Nassau County Museum of Art, Miró-Dubuffet-Basquiat, March 13- May 23, 2010

  • Literature

    Nassau Museum of Art, Miró/DuBuffet/Basquiat, Roslyn Harbor, Nassau County Museum of Art, 2010, p.4 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Comprised of colored crayon, black felt tip pen, and acrylic paint on Arches wove paper, the present lot, Self-Portrait, 1982, exemplifies the condensed and self-awareness that propelled the young Jean-Michel Basquiat into the pantheon of visual artists and would posthumously reveal the magnitude of his contributions to contemporary art. This introspective representation of self-dissection conveys an unequivocal conviction that radiates off the sheet. Here, at the tender age of 22, Basquiat depicts himself as a powerful figure, his kinetic energy bursting with an aura of vibrant citrus colors; evidence that the radiant child was already negotiating with the praise and attention that was so readily thrust upon him.

    Working out of the basement of Annina Nosei’s gallery on Prince Street, this was a time of tremendous productivity for the young artist, creating large paintings on canvas and on board, as well as producing an unusually high volume of drawings. This remarkable output of physical, emotional, and intellectual energy is palpable in the present lot, a self-portrait that situates Basquiat in arguably the most artistically prolific period of his short life. An influential troubadour of the artist’s early career was Rene Richard, whose description of Basquiat’s work has proven resourceful to this day; “If Cy Twombly and Jean Dubuffet had a baby, and gave it up for adoption, it would be Jean-Michel.” Rene Ricard, “The Radiant Child,” Artforum, (December 1981), p. 43). Cause for comparison, the radical nature of Dubuffet’s work would come to typify the trope of rebellious artist, whose reactionary art would express a rejection of beauty and conformity, ultimately gaining respect and affluence within the art world. Of course,Twombly was of notable influence on Basquiat, who often affirmed his admiration for the Abstract Expressionist, however, one can clearly recognize an aesthetic connection between Dubuffet’s graffiti-like figures and the gritty intensity that surfaces in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s draftsmanship.

    Boasting strong features, broad shoulders, a thick muscular torso and limbs, Basquiat’s ego emerges through Self-Portrait as amalgamation of ideals: the Vitruvian man, the athlete (Joe Louis), the lauded artist adorned with a crown of laurels. Drafting his body with a black felt tip pen, the artist takes deliberate measures to call attention to the articulation of his body; pin pointing his hands in relation to the rest of his joints– calculating his entire body in a gesture of encompassing creativity. These pin points are also supplemented by various symbols, a reoccurring theme throughout Basquiat’s oeuvre, which correspond to physical properties of mercury, and saltpeter. The use of symbolism underscores the artists’ deep interest in alchemy, the relationship between his intellectual and the physical action of the creative process, and its collision with various artistic mediums. Often referencing mask-like faces, here, the artist does not bare a specific facial expression. Instead, he appears poised, frozen in a moment of creative intensity, his crown simultaneously symbolizing his prominence as well as the physical and intellectual connection between mind and body.

    In Self-Portrait, 1982, Basquiat layers his draftsmanship with a palate of primary colors that evoke an elevated stature, an implicit sense of royalty. The concentration of his hues are intensified by their gestural application, a royal blue is specifically employed to highlight the hands, arms, legs, the center of the artist’s forehead, and the outline of his head carefully balancing this is the bold use of red along his torso, penis, and leg. Layered on top of the yellow and orange ground, Basquiat seems to take a Fauvist approach to his color field. Evident in this portrait is the explosive and frenzied use of color on right side of the artwork, while the left side of the figure appears slightly more calculated. The dissection of the artists’ anatomy is revealed through a stratum of coils connected to various parts of his body– particularly his left arm and torso, while an interior view of his right rib-cage is revealed in a visceral crimson hue that pulsates through his right side. Fervently drafted and colored, the artist’s left hand is depicted in a most expressive manner, sweeping gestures of blue bring the viewer’s gaze directly to this studied component. Yet, the longest shadow of influence that maybe cast on Basquiat’s singular approach is clearly that of Pablo Picasso. The Spaniard’s restless imagination and unbridled passion provided the young Basquiat with a template for his own wild vision. Both artists having radicalized the expression of political, social, psychological, and sexual subject matter.

    A poetic and tactile quality of the present lot, along with the expressive gestures of color on top of the black current of draftsmanship, is the softened texture of Arches wove paper. Absorbing the movement and immediacy of Basquiat’s creative force, the paper seems to imbue a sense of the artist’s life into every smudge of color and every crease. While many of Basquiat’s drawings can be located as advanced studies for his paintings, Self-Portrait, 1982, stands as a unique output of artistic energy.
    “The bravura art of Jean-Michel Basquiat happened so fast, so furious and so famously that only now is the turbulence subsiding. Now even the canonically-minded will come to see in what ways he has emerged as a 20th century master. To which may be added: it is about time.” (Robert Farris Thompson, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Works on Paper, Galerie en Rico Navarra, 1999, p. 29).

  • 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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colored crayon, black felt tip pen, and acrylic on Arches wove paper
sheet: 29 7/8 x 22 1/4 in. (75.9 x 56.5 cm)
Initialed “JMB” on the reverse.
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Authentication Committee for the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

$2,500,000 - 3,500,000 

Sold for $4,058,500

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

15 November 2012
New York