Jean-Michel Basquiat - Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The artist
    Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich
    Akira Ikeda Gallery, Japan
    Private Collection, Japan

  • Exhibited

    Nagoya, Akira Ikeda Gallery, Drawings, March 1988

  • Catalogue Essay

    “ Believe it or not, I can actually draw.” - Jean-Michel Basquiat

    Executed in 1981, Untitled, concisely encapsulates the vivacity and excitement of the early foundation of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s oeuvre. While works on paper traditionally insinuate complementary works to the opus of the artist in an art historical context, it can be argued that the present lot on paper matches the visceral, active spirit of his canvas works: “Drawing was an essential element in the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The artist made no hierarchical distinction between drawing and painting, and in fact, his paintings and drawings are often indistinguishable, and only differ in their paper or canvas support”, (Richard D. Marshall as quoted in Enrico Navarra, ed., Jean-Michel Basquiat: Oeuvres sur Papier, Paris, 1999, p.30).

    With a self-assured hand constructing the surface, Untitled charismatically exhibits Basquiat’s exemplary painterly aesthetic of securing the pictorial tension in his works on paper. In the present lot, Basquiat delimits the picture plane into subtitles and sub-frames. A smaller display of the artist’s oeuvre, the work on paper contains iconic, characteristic emblems associated with Basquiat’s early drawings: radiant yellow circles and a yellow crown hover above the scratchily coloured-in car, while the foundation of the drawing is comprised of a combination of the letters ‘A’ and ‘O’ that are randomly boxed. The contents are framed by loose, yet concise bold red lines; however, the phrase, “Before World War II less than a third owned their own dogs or hot water”, is exempt from the premeditated pictorial boundaries. The idiom is a fantastic example of Basquiat’s experiment in semiotics with his own hermeneutical devices, also known as SAMO, which was comprised of abridged sentences that once adorned the Brooklyn Bridge early in the artist’s career. Despite its simple, childlike images of the subject and the conspicuous randomness of the lines and etchiness of the letters, the drawing retains a refined cautiousness with its exquisite symbolic renderings. Fusing the rough urbanism of his street graffiti with his fresh and expressive raw symbolism, the present lot discerns a complex assemblage of spontaneous jargon that helped launch Basquiat’s aesthetic vernacular into the language of the 20th century.

  • 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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oil and wax crayon on paper
61 x 45.4 cm (24 x 17 7/8 in.)
Signed and dated '81 JeanMB' on a label affixed to the reverse.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Head of Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

Contemporary Art Day Sale

London 17 October 2013