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  • Provenance

    Private collection, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Zurich, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Jean-Michel Basquiat, January 19 – February 16, 1985; Venice, Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Basquiat a Venezia, June 8 – November 1, 1999

  • Literature

    Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, ed., Jean-Michel Basquiat, Zurich, 1985, no. 5 (illustrated); M. Enrici, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris, 1989, p. 117 (illustrated); R.D. Marshall, J.L. Prat, eds., Jean-Michel Basquiat, vol I, Paris, 1996, p. 220 (illustrated); Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, ed., Basquiat a Venezia, Venice, 1999, p. 97 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “What gives Basquiat’s works their special appeal is the fact that the words and symbols that he uses function almost like a code, serving to conceal various themes such as political, social or racial problems. Each has its own special meaning, and when viewed as a whole it is immediately apparent that he has intentionally arranged various symbols on a field. Although the meaning is not readily surrendered. Visually, his works appear very powerful with wild tones and striking images, but I also suspect a deep sense of poetic sensitivity,” writes Richard Marshall, the curator of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s first major retrospective at theWhitney Museum of American Art in 1992, and several later exhibitions.
    (T. Kawachi, King for a Decade: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kyoto, 1997, p.73)
    Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York to a mother of Haitian nationality and an Afro-Puerto Rican father. Within the Basquiat family, Spanish and French were conversed along with English, allowing Jean-Michel fluency in all three languages. As a child, the young artist took interest in varying subjects, rapidly absorbing information feeding his constantly changing interests. Although formal art training was never pursued, Basquiat’s mother encouraged the study and practice of art.
    Dropping out of high school at the age of seventeen, Basquiat moved into Manhattan with a friend. Supporting himself by selling t-shirts and postcards, and working in a clothing warehouse, the artist soon became a regular in East Village social life. Basquiat’s graffiti tag of “SAMO” (i.e. “Same Ol’ Shit and pronounced “SAY MO”) began popping up on buildings scattered throughout lower Manhattan. The artist chose to strategically place his signature phrase and accompanying text (later claimed as his first bout with poetry) in the public eye, rather than the typical subterranean train station. “SAMO” held meaning beyond its reference to monotony and became a theoretical marker of the end of one era of art and an introduction into the next. The signature tag at once mocked the art world and propelled Basquiat’s quest for recognition as an artist. The artist intended to present his true values to his audience – an idea similar to that of Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.
    In the late 1970s Conceptual and Minimal art were beginning to fade. The supporting conservative essence of the market of the era would soon be brought back to life by the coming generation of Basquiat and the Neo- Expressionists. The up-and-coming artists allowed their energy and ideas to flood at full speed canvases, panels, and any other surface or object able to hold paint. The previously outdated practice of painting and the visual presence of the painterly hand of the artist re-emerged.
    The profuse vitality of the 1980s was deeply penetrated in the visual arts, evidenced by the vibrancy of colors and imagery. The art world was pulsating, it existed beyond the galleries and museums. Even the public outside of the art world was noticing this infectious attitude resulting from the new intellectual stimulus. Fine arts were extremely important to this era as they served as visual windows into the minds of artists and thinkers. The paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat, as exemplified by the present lot, J.D. Card, capture the spirit of a decade that changed the art world of the twentieth century. The years 1981-1984 presented the greatest era of artistic creation; young artists possessed the ability to shake up the world based on pure intellect and talent alone.
    Basquiat’s career can be grouped into three periods, spanning only eight years. The first, 1980-1982 is recognized by an obvious inspiration of the street through images such as cars and signs. Skulls and faces reading as masks were also common in this period. 1982-1985 holds the second part of the artist’s career. Words and collages were introduced as well as direct influences of African American history and jazz music. During this period, the artist often lined canvases and wood boards against a wall, painting them all at once. Collaborations with Andy Warhol and Francesco Clemente were executed during these years as well. The final period of the short career of Jean-Michel Basquiat began in 1986 and lasted until his untimely death in 1988. Within these years the artist found a new way of expressing characters – completely new symbols and sources of ideas appeared and early imagery was outgrown. Dimensions of works were significantly larger than those of previous pieces.Words and letters were common as new territory was explored.
    Representing the second period of Basquiat’s career, the present lot, J.D. Card was painted in 1984. The use of text and a collaged composition of imagery epitomize the mid-career years of the Neo-Expressionist artist. Words schematically placed within the canvas support references to the artist as a contemporary poet as well as a painter. Rather than an arrangement of letters, words become language-symbols. Often hidden behind marks and slashes, Basquiat requires the viewer’s desire to read and ponder the existence of an independent word. “Jail,” balance,” and “standard,” the crossed out text of the present lot, further prompts viewer’s curiosity to decipher the reasoning behind such a juxtaposition of seemingly carefully selected text. The three slashed words are mentally arranged and rearranged, their relationship to each other having no apparent set order, rather existing as three independent ideas altering each other’s meaning when contrasted. The same is true for the three words one fraction, and one number remaining unmarked in the painting – “rake,” “coal,” “electric,” “2/10” and “10.” A hierarchy of importance within the images and text is not prevalent within the painting. The work stands as a piece to the puzzle of the mind of the artist. Through the faculty of the current lot, J.D. Card, we are allowed access to the thought process of Basquiat.
    Jean-Michel Basquiat was constantly drawing, painting, and creating. While inspired by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Cy Twombly and Franz Kline, Basquiat never abandoned his intuition and intellect. He possessed a restless mind that required a constant outlet for ideas and creativity. Although his life-span was brief, the artist left behind an oeuvre marked by internal evolution and an extensive, developed body of work. Executed in 1984, mid-way through his brief career, the present lot, J.D. Card, exemplifies the work of one of the most influential painters of the twentieth century. J.D. Card allows insight into the thought process of an artist who continues to affect the ever-changing art world.

  • 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 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. 

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Acrylic on canvas.

86 x 67 3/4 in. (218.4 x 172 cm).

Signed, titled and dated “Jean-Michel JD Card Sept. 1984” on the reverse

$2,200,000 - 2,800,000 

Contemporary Art Part I

13 Nov 2008, 7pm
New York