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  • Provenance

    Robert Miller Gallery, New York
    Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
    Stephen Lacey Gallery, London
    Private Collection, London (acquired from the above in April 2000)

  • Exhibited

    Beverly Hills, Gagosian Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat - Paintings and Drawings 1980-1988, 12 February - 14 March 1998, pl. 19 (illustrated)
    Klagenfurt, Stadtgalerie Klagenfurt, Jean-Michel Basquiat - Works on Paper, 18 June – 26 September 1999, p. 18 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Throughout his short but prolific career, Jean‐Michel Basquiat produced a selection of works on paper which celebrate the materialistic qualities of the medium, often rivaling his works on canvas with their energy and dynamism. At ease when working on paper, the looseness of sketching in oil stick on paper permitted the acclaimed artist to work at any time and almost anywhere, without the necessity of installation or construction, freeing him from the confines of a studio. Working on the floor or spread over a table, hotel room desk or car seat, Basquiat’s drawings, as evident in the present work Alchemy, are focused, immediate and raw, often completed uninterrupted, unlike his more substantial works on canvas or wooden support. The spontaneous genius of these small, intimate sketches allow us an insightful glimpse into the mind of the one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

    In May 1968, a young Basquiat was involved in a car accident that left him with a broken arm and severe internal injuries. Following the removal of his spleen, Basquiat spent a month recovering in King’s County Hospital and whilst there, the young artist’s mother gave him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, a text that had a profound influence on his visual lexicon. In accompaniment to his own personal experience of trauma and transformation, his accident and recovery undoubtedly fuelled a fascination with the interior of the human body and the duality of the interior and exterior physicality that defines us. Furthermore, the influence of the work of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings, which were contained in a collection of books lent to the artist by his associate Fred Hoffman at the height of his career, can also be identified in the present work. ‘Leonardo’s seemingly compulsive investigation of human anatomy and physiology would become a lifelong passion for Basquiat’ (Fred Hoffman, in ‘VIII – From Leonardo’, Jean‐Michel Basquiat: Drawings: Work from the Schorr Family Collection, exh. cat., Acquavella Gallery, New York, 2014, p. 124). The delicate, linear form recalls da Vinci’s pursuit of discovering and representing the mysteries of the human body on paper. The bold composition and expressive central form in Alchemy, on the one hand draws upon Basquiat’s visual syntax of street art, graffiti and hobo signs, channelling the dynamism and rhythm of downtown New York, but also invokes an almost childlike innocence with a great underlying sense of personal suffering, imbued with cultural, scientific and art historical richness.

  • 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. 

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135

Alchemy

signed and dated 'Basquiat '85' on the reverse
oilstick on paper
38.1 x 50.8 cm (15 x 20 in.)
Executed in 1985, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Estimate
£120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for £162,500

Contact Specialist
Tamila Kerimova
Specialist, Head of Day Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4065
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 26 June 2018