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  • Provenance

    Annina Nosei Gallery, New York
    Private Collection
    New York, Christie's, Post-War and Contemporary Art, May 12, 2005, lot 555
    Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Four Friends, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Donald Baechler, Kenny Scharf, October 25, 2007 - February 29, 2008
    Portland, Portland Art Museum, Masterworks, December 18, 2012 - April 18, 2013

  • Catalogue Essay

    From oilstick to paper, Basquiat’s hand in drawing is a revelation: “He was compelled to tell the truth as he saw it and realize his vision, but his hypersensitivity, which was so innately connected to his process, detected many demons and enemies – some real, some exaggerated, and some imagined.” (Glenn O’Brien, Basquiat, Hatje Cantz, p.III). The present lot, an Untitled work from 1982, is no exception to Basquiat’s ingenious sense of color, form and line, all the while exuding this “hypersensitivity” known to the Radiant Child. Those who have witnessed Basquiat at work describe his drawings in particular as an activity - even a dance - rather than the mere application of medium. These works on paper, more than anything, show drawing as an experience of everyday life. Friend of the artist and frequent guest on Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party, Fab 5 Freddy describes the way Basquiat would hold his pencil or oilstick as untraditional: “He would stick it through the fourth finger and look really awkward, so that when he drew, the pencil would just kind of slip out of his hand. He’d let it go that way, then grab it and bring it down, then let it drift. It was amazing, this whole dance he did with the pencil.” (Fab 5 Freddy, quoted in Ingrid Sischy, “Jean-Michel Basquiat as Told by Fred Braithwaite," Interview 22 (October 1992), p. 119). Others describe the process as a manic obsession, having seen the artist squatting on the floor, the lines created by the gestural oilstick as organic visualization and rhythm rather than an artistic process.

    In Untitled, the black bodied bird’s sea-blue wings spanning the page, comes to form through the repetitive, bold strokes in combination with child-like cross-hatching. The sprawling wingspan of the bird, with a signature radiating halo above its head recalls the work on canvas Untitled (Fallen Angel) from the previous year. The bird in the present lot has now become further removed from the symbol of the fallen angel with the strong, dark silhouette of the blackbird taking center-stage. Upon deeper inspection, a pair of red hands appear from beyond the wings – another prominent motif within Basquiat’s distinct catalogue of imagery and iconography. Further, the votive symbol of the halo imbues the work with fallen idols. Within the edges of the wings, downward red arrows emerge further alluding to the fallen. This theme of divine or royal exile is whole-heartedly present in Basquiat’s oeuvre, often acting as an anecdote for the artist himself. Like the New York Times Magazine cover story, titled “New Art, New Money” from 1985, the artist dressed in a suit is enthroned yet barefoot, signalling Basquiat’s uniquely ambiguous identity. The year this work was created was arguably a key shift within Basquiat’s career. It was the year of his first solo show in the United States at Annina Nosei’s gallery. Later in the year, Basquiat is introduced to Andy Warhol, with whom he later collaborates. Within the realm of the 1980s New York City art world, he was both an outsider yet crowned a prince.

    Perhaps most enlightening in context is the Psalm written by Basquiat in a rare notebook (Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Untitled Notebook Page,” c. 1987) alluding to his addiction, his creative process and the artists own fallen-self:


    While the blackbird becomes a symbol of the fallen prince, the strong, repetitive lines, combined with the child-like innocence makes this work an embodiment of Basquiat’s energized and brilliantly chromatic dance.

  • 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 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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oilstick on paper
18 x 24 1/4 in. (45.7 x 61.6 cm)
Signed and dated "82 Jean-Michel Basquiat" on the reverse. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

$800,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $845,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm