Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    The Estate of Andy Warhol, New York
    Wooster Projects, New York
    Private Collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    Beverly Hills, Gagosian Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat & Andy Warhol: Collaboration Paintings, 23 May – 22 June 2002

  • Catalogue Essay

    “He would put something very concrete or recognizable … then I would sort of deface it, and then would try to get him to work some more on it, and then I would work more on it.” JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

    GE Short Line & Reading, executed in 1984–85, is a superb example of how two artists of contrasting social backgrounds and generations can work together successfully. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol had radically different painting styles and equally different aesthetics; they were at different stages of their careers and personal development when they started to work together. To a degree, both artists were outsiders – Warhol, whose celebrity and standing as an artist was beginning to look
    tired and who preferred to lapse into the guise of an enigmatic voyeur, and Basquiat, a young African-American enfant terrible with no formal training but with a growing reputation.

    The collaboration paintings were conceived in December 1983 when the Swiss art dealer Bruno Bischofberger convinced three of his artists – the third being the Italian artist Francesco Clemente – to begin shortterm collaborations. The initial three-way collaboration was neither critically or commercially successful and through a type of Darwinian
    selection, by the spring of 1984, Warhol and Basquiat found themselves working together without Clemente. By the mid 1980s, Warhol was at a creative low ebb and many felt that he had struggled since the attempt on his life in 1968. Although hesitant at first, he saw the potential in Basquiat. Basquiat, on the other hand, was fascinated by Warhol, and his desire to be accepted as a black artist in the white art world and his ambitious nature made him realise the social and professional benefits of being associated with Warhol.

    GE Short Line & Reading combines Warhol’s mechanically reproducible flat images, appropriated from mass media, with Basquiat’s handpainted physicality and purposeful primitivism. Warhol, inspired by Basquiat’s energy, returned to his own beginnings as a painter, and in turn Basquiat began to sample his earlier visual collages by way of the silkscreen technique introduced by Warhol. In GE Short Line & Reading, Basquiat created a visual backdrop for Warhol by silkscreening in his own sketches. He laid the foundations with naïve, child-like images of heads, all looking in various directions. Basquiat spent his teenage years honing his skills as a cartoonist and later took to the streets under the pseudonym SAMO ©, spray painting the streets of downtown Manhattan. Warhol, as if in conversation, replied by painting the bright blue company logo of General Electric that dominates the lower right of the canvas, carving through several of Basquiat’s cartoon figures. This is a reoccurring motif in many of the collaboration paintings, archetypal of Warhol’s flat graphics appropriated from mass media. Basquiat then responds, once again, by painting a black head and cap with piercing white eyes that transcends over Warhol’s General Electric motif. Basquiat further adds the text “SHORT LINE READING” in typically unrestrained urban lettering, clearly a play on words that Basquiat continuously revisits throughout his oeuvre.

    The studio chemistry is recalled by Keith Haring: “The collaborations were seemingly effortless. It was a physical conversation happening in paint instead of words. The sense of humour, the snide remarks, the profound realization, the simple chit-chat all happened with paint and brush” (K. Haring, ‘Painting the Third Mind’, in Ménage à trois: Warhol, Basquiat, Clemente, exh. cat., 10 February–20 May 2012, Art and Exhibition Hall of Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn).

    “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).


GE Short Line & Reading

circa 1984–85
synthetic polymer paint, oilstick and silkscreen ink on canvas
193 x 223.5 cm (75 7/8 x 87 7/8 in)
Stamped by The Estate of Andy Warhol and numbered PA99.046 on the overlap.

£1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

10 October 2012