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  • Executed between 1984 and 1985, Bananas is the product of a fruitful period of collaboration between the founding father of Pop art, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, the enfant terrible of Neo-Expressionism. Coming together at different stages of their respective careers, Basquiat and Warhol shared immense mutual respect and admiration for one another and together produced works of astounding insight, intimacy, and intelligence. The present work perhaps stands as an inside joke amongst close collaborators, as that same year, Basquiat conceived Brown Spots (Portrait of Andy Warhol as a Banana) for his first show at Mary Boone that May. The Warholian emblem alludes to his famous album cover art for The Velvet Underground & Nico. Bringing together a discordant assemblage of imagery, Bananas exhibits the paradoxical, sublime concord of the two artists’ collaboration.

     

    According to their shared gallerist Bruno Bischofberger, the present work was Basquiat’s “secret favorite” from the double-collaboration along with Clearboy, 1984-1985. After keeping the present work in his personal collection, Basquiat eventually sold it to Bischofberger. A rare-to-market opportunity, Bananas comes to auction for the first time since it was acquired by an important private collection from the artists’ gallerist.

     

    The artists painting Clearboy in Warhol’s studio at 860 Broadway, 1984. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

    At the time of their first official introduction in the fall of 1982, Basquiat was a young artist only just gaining establishment recognition, while Warhol had already been an international sensation for nearly twenty years. The duo were first formally acquainted through Bruno Bischofberger, who brought Basquiat to the Factory to have his portrait taken by Warhol. Following the photoshoot, all three had lunch, but Basquiat abruptly left, returning an hour or so later with a still wet painterly iteration of their double Polaroid portrait. Warhol was stunned by Basquiat’s speed, and Dos Cabezas, Basquiat’s portrait, spurred the collaboration that would subsequently blossom.

     

    Basquiat and Bischofberger had for some time discussed the idea of artistic collaboration—its history, conceptuality, and feasibility—and the two postulated that contemporary collaborations could yield interesting results. The following year, Bischofberger connected Basquiat with Warhol and Francesco Clemente, also in his stable, which resulted in 15 works that were exhibited at Bischofberger’s gallery in 1984, and the group apparently dissolved thereafter.

     

    Jean-Michel Basquiat, Brown Spots (Portrait of Andy Warhol as a Banana), 1984. Artwork: © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York 

    In 1985 Warhol sheepishly admitted to Bischofberger that he and Basquiat had clandestinely kept up their collaborations even after the 1984 exhibition. The two artists had relished working together and, the result was a truly symbiotic relationship that benefitted each artist immensely, inspiring creativity and risk-taking in both partners: Basquiat reinvigorated Warhol’s engagement with painting, and Basquiat tried his hand at screenprinting, Warhol’s preferred medium.

     

    Of their preferred working method, Basquiat remarked, “[Warhol] would start most of the paintings. He'd start one, you know, put... something very concrete or recognizable like a newspaper headline or a product logo and I would sort of deface it and then when I would try to get him to work some more on it, you know, and then I would work more on it. I tried to get him to do at least two things. He likes to do just one hit, you know [laughs] and then have me do all the work after that...We used to paint over each other's stuff all the time.”i

     

    [left] Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dos Cabezas, 1982. Artwork © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York [right] Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait with Basquiat, October 4, 1982. Artwork: © 2021 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    "Each one inspired the other to out-do the next. 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."
    —Keith Haring

    In Bananas, the layered imagery bears clear traces of each maker: Warhol’s renderings of corporate logos and store prices juxtapose Basquiat’s inversion of the composition. His scrawled bananas, uncontained axioms, and hieroglyphs, occasionally overwhelm Warhol’s iconography, revealing the competitive mischief of the artists’ collaboration. Keith Haring remarked that “painting with Jean-Michel was not easy. You had to forget any preconceived ideas of ownership and be prepared to have anything you’d done completely painted over within seconds.”ii But the coherence of the composition belies their deep mutual respect. Basquiat and Warhol adhered to a strict thematic vocabulary, recreating icons of consumerism and capitalism, and any incursions into the other artist’s painted territory accentuate the composition rather than erase it. Bananas is an artifact of an immensely important art-historical collaboration; like the librettist and composer of an opera, Warhol and Basquiat operated in unison yet independently of one another to create a discrete and harmonious work of art.

     

    Cut from the Archives

     

     

    i Jean-Michel Basquiat, quoted in Dieter Buckhart, ed., Basquiat, exh. cat., Fondation Beyeler, Ostfildern, 2010, p. xxxi.
    ii Keith Haring, “Painting the Third Mind”, 1988, in Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum, 2009, pp. 203-204.

    • Provenance

      Jean-Michel Basquiat
      Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Kassel, Museum Fridericianum; Munich, Museum Villa Stuck; Turin, Castello di Rivoli, Museo d'Arte Contemporanea (illustrated, p. 114), Collaborations — Warhol, Basquiat, Clemente, February 4, 1996 - January 19, 1997, p. 125 (illustrated, p. 61)
      Trieste, Civico Museo Revoltella Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Jean-Michel Basquiat, May 15 - September 15, 1999, p. 184 (illustrated, p. 185; Francesco Clemente erroneously included as participant)
      Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Warhol, Basquiat, Clemente — Obras en Colaboración, February 5 - April 29, 2002, pp. 34, 36, 101 (illustrated, pp. 35, 80)
      Vienna, Bank Austria Kunstforum, Warhol / Basquiat, October 16, 2013 - February 2, 2014, p. 50 (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Jean-Louis Prat and Bruno Bischofberger, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris, 1996, p. 383 (illustrated)
      Luca Marenzi, et al., Jean-Michel Basquiat, Milan, 1999, p. 185 (illustrated)
      Jean-Louis Prat and Richard D. Marshall, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris, 2000, p. 66 (illustrated)
      Leonhard Emmerling, Jean-Michel Basquiat 1960-1988: The Explosive Force of the Streets, Cologne, 2015, p. 67 (illustrated, p. 69)
      Hans Werner Holzwarth and Eleanor Nairne, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cologne, 2018, pp. 394-395 (illustrated)

Property from a Significant Private Collection

Ο ◆12

Bananas

acrylic, silkscreen ink and oilstick on canvas
87 3/4 x 81 3/8 in. (222.9 x 206.7 cm)
Executed in 1984-1985.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$4,000,000 - 6,000,000 

Sold for $4,300,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Auctions
New York
+1 212 940 1278

[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 23 June 2021