Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The artists, New York; Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich; Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Lyon, Maison Lyon, 2ème Biennale d’Art Contemporain, September 3 – October 13, 1993, p. 265 (illustrated in color); Kassel, Museum Fridericianum and Munich, Museum Villa Stuck, Collaborations Warhol ∙ Basquiat ∙ Clemente, February 4 – September 29, 1996, p. 90 (illustrated in color); Torino, Castello di Rivoli, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Collaborations: Warhol Basquiat Clemente, October 17, 1996 – January 19, 1997, p. 139 (illustrated in color); Zurich, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Jean-Michel Basquiat & Andy Warhol – Collaborations, December 10, 1998 – March 13, 1999; Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Warhol Basquiat Clemente – Obras en Colaboración, February 5 – April 29, 2002, p. 86 (illustrated in color); Milan, Fondazione La Triennale di Milano, The Andy Warhol Show, September 20, 2004 – January 9, 2005, p. 282, no. 208 (illustrated in color)

  • Literature

    Art Press 183, International Edition, 1993, p. 38 (illustrated in color); M. Dachy, T. Raspail and T. Prat, 2ème Biennale d’Art Contemporain, Et Tous Ils Changent Le Monde, Lyon, 1993, p. 265 (illustrated in color); Atelier Magazine, No. 802, Japan, 1995, pp. 64-65 (illustrated in color); I. Gianelli, J.B. Danzker, T. Osterwold, T. Fairbrother et al., Collaborations Warhol ∙ Basquiat ∙ Clemente, Ostfildern and Torino, 1996, p. 139 (illustrated in color); T. Osterwold, Collaborations Warhol ∙ Basquiat ∙ Clemente, Ostfildern, 1996, p. 90 (illustrated in color); J.M. Bonet, R.D. Marshall and E. Juncosa, Warhol Basquiat Clemente – Obras en Colaboración, Madrid, 2002, p. 86 (illustrated in color)
    G. Mercurio and D. Morera, The Andy Warhol Show, Milan, 2004, p. 282, no. 208 (illustrated in color)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Please note that this work has been requested and promised to be included in the forthcoming exhibition Warhol and Basquiat at the Arken Museum of Modern Art, Denmark from September 3, 2011 to January 14, 2012. The exhibition will be curated by Dieter Buchhart, the curator of the Basquiat Retrospective at the Fondation Beyeler 2010-2011.

    Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol were two of the most brilliant artists of their generations, if not the most brilliant. Basquiat and Warhol’s
    friendship began just as Warhol’s career was beginning to calm down from the frenzy of the 1960s and 70s and Basquiat’s career was beginning to explode. With the Collaborations, the foremost art figure of the previous two decades was joining artistic forces with the wild-child of the 1980s.

    Much like Warhol, Basquiat first became famous for his art and then became famous for being famous. Basquiat began his career as a graffiti artist, under the tag name SAMO (Same Old Shit). At that time, the purpose of graffiti art was to obtain a level of fame — a certain status and recognition and this was always Basquiat’s goal. He saw Andy Warhol as being number one and he wanted that same level of fame and respect. And he would indeed achieve that level of celebrity in an incredibly short period of time — within a span of two years he went from living on the streets to being a millionaire and celebrity.

    Basquiat’s life was a whirlwind of extremes. He “captured the downtown pulse of his time, for good and ill, and defined some key cultural crossovers. The son of Haitian and Puerto Rican parents, he embodied the emerging doctrine of multiculturalism and jumbled up various traditions with devilmay- care energy…He did not have much formal training as a painter and did not pretend otherwise, perhaps sensing that without a long apprenticeship, pretenders to the high tradition become derivative artists. Instead, he developed a distinctive, rough style that has the aura of a self-taught, sui generis outsider who lives in the middle of nowhere. Except, of course, that
    this smart naïf lived in the heart of the New York art world” (M. Stevens, “American Graffitti,” New York Magazine, May 21, 2005).

    It was this exact energy that would so catch Warhol’s attention, although at the beginning Warhol was a bit weary of this young wünderkind. Basquiat invaded the New York art world with a vision and pictorial vocabulary that was both innocent and rough. Much of the thematic symbolism of his work was focused on money, politics and death — not altogether different from some of the themes that fascinated Warhol.

    In the same way that Warhol culled inspiration from popular culture, Basquiat was constantly painting and absorbing different sources of
    inspiration whether from books, TV shows, magazines or his friends. He took the street energy surrounding him in downtown New York and translated it into high art. Basquiat had a brilliant mind and was continuously absorbing all of the information around him and reinventing it on his canvases in a freshly urban and totally unique way.

    It was the dealer Bruno Bischofberger who had the idea for the two artists to combine both of their distinctive brands of art making in a series called Collaborations begun in 1984. Bischofberger could not have known how significant and mutually beneficial this joining of artistic forces would be on both artists’ careers. He recalls “I personally had been fascinated by [collaborative] works for some time. I knew collaborations of painters from the fifteenth to nineteenth century and the ‘cadavre exquis’ of the surrealists. For over twenty years I had owned a collaboration, dating from 1961, between Jean Tinguely, Niki de Saint Phalle and Daniel Spoerri...The conceptuality
    of these paintings fascinated me, because through the voluntary act of collaborating a certain theory became more apparent than in works which the artists create individually” (B. Bischofberger, “Collaborations and Reflections on/and Experiences with Basquiat, Clemente and Warhol,” The Andy Warhol Show, Milan, 2004, p. 38).

    At that time, everyone looked up to Andy and he would in turn be seduced and enamored by Jean-Michel. Basquiat was fascinated by Warhol and had already been to the Factory many times as a teenager. He had even tried to sell Warhol one of his postcards (which he sold in Washington Square Park) during a lunch Andy was having with Henry Geldzahler. However, Warhol officially met Basquiat when Bischofberger took him to be photographed at the Factory for a portrait Warhol was planning to do of the young artist. Not too long into their meeting, Basquiat left. An hour later one of his assistants returned with a still wet painting of Andy and him. Warhol, who had been
    previously unconvinced of the young artist’s talent, responded “I‘m really jealous — he is faster than me!“ With that, Warhol’s weariness quickly evaporated and an incredibly strong and mutually beneficial friendship began between the two artists. To say this was an integral moment for both artists would be an understatement.

    By 1983, Andy had given up drawing and hand-painting and it was Basquiat who got him to return to that. Basquiat said to Bischofberger “Andy is such a fantastic painter! His hand painting is as good as it was in his early years. I am going to try and convince him to start painting by hand again” (B. Bischofberger, “Collaborations and Reflections on/and Experiences with Basquiat, Clemente and Warhol,” The Andy Warhol Show, Milan, 2004, p. 43).

    In the Collaborations each artist contributed both the materials and styles for which they were best known. Though each of the artist’s styles were worlds apart, when combined they created bold, powerful works. Both artists looked to popular culture for inspiration – Warhol to advertising and celebrities, Basquiat to street life, jazz musicians and professional athletes. Though teaming up with the legendary Warhol was the stuff of dreams for Basquiat, the collaboration was mutually beneficial, if not more so for Warhol than Basquiat, whose career had been sidelined recently. As Ronnie Cutrone said “Jean-Michel thought he needed Andy’s fame, and Andy thought he needed Jean-Michel’s new blood. Jean-Michel gave Andy a rebellious image again” (V. Bockris, Warhol: The Biography, Cambridge, 2003, p. 461-2).

    The Collaborations are bold, bright and visually arresting and perhaps none more so than Third Eye with its brilliantly hued background, Warhol’s bold color blocking and Basquiat’s frenzied style. To create these collaborations, the artists painted over one another’s work, each emphasizing their distinct brands of art, creating a moving tension between the two styles and across the canvas. As was typical in the Collaborations, Warhol would be the first to lay down his images. Then, once the graphics were blocked, Basquiat would fill in other areas of the canvas. Warhol’s main contribution to these works featured his poster-style hand-painted enlargements of advertising images or company logos. His painterly brushstrokes were evocative of his earlier hand-painted works. In turn, Basquiat was usually the second painter to work
    on the canvases, fusing his spontaneous and expressive iconography with Warhol’s distinctly unique style.

    Both Basquiat and Warhol were aware of the great history of artists before them and Basquiat, in particular, let their art inspire him. In this painting he references Leonardo da Vinci and Cy Twombly with his anatomical details and dynamic brushwork. However, Basquiat did not limit himself to visual artists – he culled inspiration from books such as Gray’s Anatomy; musicians such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis; from scientists such as Gregor Mendel and Charles Darwin; and from poets such as John Giorno and William Burroughs. It was in fact Burroughs who inspired his technique of cutting up and collaging his text in different ways.

    Basquiat would later recall “[Andy] would start most of the paintings… he would put something very concrete or recognizable like a newspaper headline or a product logo and then I would sort of deface it and then I would try to get him to work some more on it and then I would do more work on it. I would try to get him to do at least two things. You know, he likes to do one hit and then have me do all the work after that….we used to paint over each other’s stuff all the time” (Jean-Michel Basquiat as interviewed by Tamra Davis).

    A third eye represents a deeply mystical and spiritual belief in enlightenment and intuition and is typically associated with imagination and creativity. The present painting, so aptly titled, is a striking homage to the styles that made both artists so famous. There is a distinctly visceral and carnal feel to this painting with an undeniable focus on actual consumption. Warhol’s painted advertisements of prime cuts of meat form a visual tension with Basquiat’s anatomical depiction of a fractured skeleton and its organs. Basquiat’s carefully chosen words, Chewing, Meat and Sausage — some clearly visible, some crossed out, heighten the dynamism of the canvas. He once said “I cross out words so you will see them more: the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them.” This constant adding and changing technique not only epitomized Basquiat’s own personal technique but also the central theme of the shared Collaborations. The giant twisted pretzel in the background is also no less evocative, perhaps a nod to New York City street life.

    Many believed that if Basquiat could align himself with Warhol both as a friend and fellow artist, he would achieve the respect he was searching for. And in many ways he did, obtaining an almost rock star status and becoming a figure with a cult following. Keith Haring was quick to note the profound harmony between Basquiat and Warhol:

    “The collaborations were seemingly effortless. It was a physical conversation happening in paint instead of words. The sense of humor, the snide remarks, the profound realizations, the simple chit-chat all happened with paint and brushes…There was a sense that one was watching something being unveiled and discovered for the first time. Andy was intrigued and intimidated at the same time. It seemed to push him to new heights. Andy returned to painting with beautiful, delicate lines, carefully laid into the canvas. The drips and gestures immediately reminded me of the earliest Warhol paintings I had seen. The new scale had forced him to develop an even richer draftsmanship. The lines flowed onto the canvas” (K. Haring, “Painting the Third Mind,’’ Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York, 2009, p. 298).

    The goal of these collaborations was contrast, even a certain level of chaos, rather than harmony or a unified symbolism. As Trevor Fairbrother aptly wrote in 1996, “Warhol’s most recognizable contributions to the collaborations are flat graphic motifs from advertisements and newspaper headlines. He often painted them big enough to be oppressive, but his loose, consciously imperfect technique gave them a worn-out, almost bogus aura... In contrast, Basquiat’s contributions are frenetic and forceful;
    often they seem to glower at the viewer. While he mimicked the rawness of pictures by children and naives, Basquiat made his marks with eloquence and assurance, and endowed them with a fierce presence.” (T. Fairbrother, “Double Feature,” Art in America, September 1996, p. 81).

    The Collaborations are also tinged by a certain element of tragedy. Many people from that time recall that they had never seen two people as close as Warhol and Basquiat were. By the mid-80s Basquiat was deeply involved with drugs and constantly surrounded by people, becoming intensely paranoid and distrusting of those around him. Warhol was one of the only people whom Basquiat could turn to and go to for advice. Unfortunately the lukewarm reception that the Collaborations initially received caused a rift between the two artists. When Warhol died in 1987, Basquiat was inconsolable and fell even more deeply into the drug use that would eventually lay claim to his life. Third Eye is a lasting legacy to both artists and to the friendship they shared, embodying the technique, style and unique brands that they are both best known for.


Third Eye

Acrylic on canvas.
80 3/4 x 128 3/4 in. (205.1 x 327 cm.)

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Sold for $7,026,500

Contemporary Art Part I

12 May 2011
New York