Jean-Michel Basquiat - Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, May 14, 2024 | Phillips

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  • “Black and like a Jack Kerouac of painting, he was a true American artist-hero. Jean-Michel Basquiat is also, in a more general sense, one of the truly original Western artists of the 1980s. His paintings show, in retrospect, the necessity and the inevitability of all significant contributions to our poetic understanding of the world.”
    —Francesco Pellizzi i

    Jean-Michel Basquiat's monumental painting, Untitled (ELMAR), created in 1982, is a paradigmatic representation of the artist's genius, making its auction debut after remaining in private hands for four decades. At nearly eight feet wide, this tour-de-force is a cornerstone of Basquiat's golden year, during which he transitioned from street art to gallery success. Emblematic of Basquiat’s best works, Untitled (ELMAR) is rich with historic and mythical iconography, intertwined with the artist’s invented symbols and graphic marks that accentuate the physical, gestural nature of his creative process. Boasting an equally impressive provenance and exhibition history, the present work was exhibited at Gagosian Los Angeles in 1998, as part of a memorial exhibition commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the artist’s death. Untitled (ELMAR) was notably featured on the cover of the accompanying catalogue. More recently, the work was prominently exhibited in the artist’s historical 2018 retrospective at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. This sale marks the first time that this important work is being offered publicly. 


    Francesco Clemente, Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Pellizzi residence in New York, NY, 1984. Photo by Francesco Pellizzi. Image: © Francesco Pellizzi

    Formerly part of the original collection of Francesco Pellizzi, the present work was acquired by the renowned historian and collector from Annina Nosei in 1984, just two years after its creation, and remained in his collection for decades. An inspired collector and friend of the artist, Mr. Pellizzi acquired timeless works that underscore Basquiat's enduring significance and artistic vision, as they continue to inspire and provoke thought forty years later. Reflecting on his 40-year friendship with Francesco and the acuity of his perceptiveness, American painter David Salle remarked, “Francesco [was] always full of vitality and interests and witty observations and warmth and engagement, the same sense of deep inquiry, and also imagination.[…] And there was something else too: a quality I can only call wisdom, a macro way of seeing things at the same time as the tiniest detail… he had the close-up view and the overview, he saw the particulate and the flow. He could combine 'like with like', and also 'like with not-quite-like', which is more rare, and all the more so when done seemingly without effort.”ii


    The present work illustrated on the cover of Jean-Michel Basquiat:
    Paintings & Drawings 1980–1988
    , Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles, 1998, exhibition catalogue.

    Untitled (ELMAR) was first shown in an exhibition dedicated to the Collection of Francesco Pellizzi, which took place at the Hofstra Museum in New York in 1989. In an essay of same year, Pellizzi reminisced on his friendship with Basquiat and the artist’s insatiable hunger for absorbing information and history. Reflecting on their discussions about art and language, Pellizzi detailed the myriad ways in which Basquiat’s voracious appetite for knowledge, coupled with his unique rebelliousness and sense of freedom, manifested in the artist’s painting practice, ultimately contributing to his mastery of the medium. He contends that in Basquiat's work one finds traces of almost all the great painters of the previous two generations, though he cannot be termed a follower of any of them. 

    “For Basquiat, it all converges in 1982. Those of us who were there at the time and saw those paintings just couldn’t believe it…Everybody around him knew that these were extraordinary.” iii
    —Jeffrey Deitch

     In 1982, often hailed as Basquiat's “Golden Year,” the 22-year-old artist produced approximately 200 significant works on canvas. Untitled (ELMAR), stands out for its raw, colorful, and direct style, epitomizing the lauded traits of this prolific period in Basquiat’s career. Characteristic of the work produced at this moment, the present painting constitutes a more confident prelude to the meticulous curation and self-consciousness of Basquiat’s later compositions, instead exuding an air of daring openness. Jeffrey Deitch, a prominent art dealer and friend of the artist, describes how, in 1982, “[Basquiat’s] peers had already anointed him as the best artist in the community, and he had the accolades of New York/New Wave.” According to Deitch, the newfound attention inspired “an increased confidence in the painting: in the strength, in the line.”iv This transformation can be partially attributed to its inception during a period of convergence, characterized by elements such as a steady supply of large-scale canvases from his new dealer, Annina Nosei, Basquiat's inaugural solo exhibition in the United States, staged at Nosei’s New York gallery, followed by a series of one-man shows worldwide, and acknowledgment from the mainstream arts establishment. These factors denoted a moment of artistic freedom and acclaim for Basquiat, preceding the onset of market pressures that would persist throughout his lifetime. 


    Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait with Basquiat, October 4, 1982. Private Collection. Artwork: © 2024 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

    Significantly, Untitled (ELMAR) was executed in the same year Basquiat was first introduced to Andy Warhol, a paramount encounter that would later lead to collaboration between the two artists. 1982 also marked Basquiat's transition from “SAMO©”—the pseudonym under which he operated as a street poet and tagger, to an influential figure in the art world. On Monday, October 4th, 1982, an ordinary entry in Warhol’s diary concealed the remarkable convergence of two avant-garde art titans: “Down to meet Bruno Bischofberger (cab $7.50). He brought Jean-Michel Basquiat with him. He’s the kid who used the name “Samo” when he used to sit on the sidewalk in Greenwich Village and paint T-shirts… then Bruno discovered him and now he’s on Easy Street. And so I had lunch for them, and then I took a Polaroid, and he went home, and within two hours a painting was back, still wet, of him and me together.”v 


    Indeed, we see the influence of Warhol in Basquiat’s canvases from this year, the present work included.  In contrast to the pictorial abundance of many of his earlier compositions, in Untitled (ELMAR), Basquiat allows ample breathing room in which the implied connections between his signs and symbols can be lucidly drawn. This sense of spaciousness engenders an ambiguity within the painting that lends it a distinctly Warholian effect in that, despite his use of bold colors, frenetic brushwork, and dense layers of imagery, there is often an openness and expansiveness to Basquiat’s presentation. Untitled (ELMAR) incorporates space in unconventional ways, with areas of intense activity punctuated by less vigorously worked areas and even glimpses of raw canvas that can appear spare in comparison but are by no means passive. Basquiat orchestrates a dynamic tension that allows viewers to navigate through the artwork and interpret its various elements at their own pace. In doing so, he provides a space for pausing and, in turn, for emphasis. 


    Jean-Michel Basquiat, Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump, 1982. Private Collection. Formerly in the collection of The Brant Foundation, Greenwich, Connecticut. Image: Archivart / Alamy Stock Photo, Artwork: © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

    In Untitled (ELMAR), Basquiat’s visual cadence akin to instinctive and visceral melodies, combined with his incorporation of handwritten text elements, is also evocative of Cy Twombly’s poetic incorporation of handwritten script and calligraphic marks. In its shared engagement with classical antiquity, Greek and Roman mythology, and the malleability of language, the present work exhibits intriguing parallels with a series Twombly produced in the 1960s featuring titles indicative of famous mythological couples. Here, Basquiat infuses urban culture with references to iconic figures and symbols of ancient lore, such as Icarus and possibly Apollo, the ancient Greek god of archery, weaving a cautionary tale that illustrates a similar fascination with the intersection of ancient myth and contemporary expression. Basquiat further blurs the boundaries between text and image, creating a richly layered work that evokes emotion, memory, and the timeless resonance of classical literature and history. 


    Born to Haitian and Puerto Rican parents, Basquiat spoke fluent Spanish and often incorporated the language into the text elements of his artworks as an extension of his career-long interest in the duplicity and obfuscation of meaning. In the present work, he writes “ELMAR” above a crest of waves. As one word, the meaning (perhaps a name) is obtuse but, as two, “el mar,” it takes on new resonance. In Spanish, “el mar” means “the sea,” stemming from the Latin, “mare.” Aside from reinforcing his interest in antiquity, the root of the word becomes important in Spanish as in Latin “mare” was neither masculine nor feminine but neuter. As Spanish evolved, the word was preserved in two forms: masculine and feminine, with each form being used differently. The feminine form describes the state of the sea, while “el mar” is used to give each sea a name. This kind of wordplay speaks as well to Basquiat’s thematic interest in duality and multiple states of being, which he returned to throughout his career in works such as Baptismal, 1982, in the Collection of Valentino Garavani, London, and one of his final paintings, entitled Riding with Death, 1988, private collection. 


    [Left] Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan, Rome, 1962. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Image: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © Cy Twombly Foundation
    [Right] Attributed to the manner of the Bowdoin Painter, Terracotta Nolan neck-amphora (jar), ca. 480–470 BCE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1941, 41.162.114

    “If Cy Twombly and Jean Dubuffet had a baby and gave it up for adoption it would be Jean-Michel. The elegance of Twombly is there [and is] from the same source (graffiti) and so is the brut of the young Dubuffet.”
    —René Ricard vi

    From a technical standpoint, Untitled (ELMAR) is an incredible example of Basquiat’s early style that incorporated visible pentimenti. Traditionally, a pentimento is a moment within a painting in which a previous compositional choice or image can be seen through the top paint layer.  Basquiat utilized this concept to his advantage, frequently painting with a mixture of thick and thin layers that intentionally revealed the underlying strata. This is particularly evident in the anatomy of the warrior figure, where the body is composed of overlapping swathes of red and white paint, black oilstick, and gold spray paint. The expansive blue sea also provides hints of what lies beneath its surface, with indiscernible gestures peeking through. Moreover, Basquiat asserts his process and presence by incorporating visible footprints that metaphorically ground his artistic expression. He often worked his canvases horizontally on the floor, reminiscent of New York's earlier Abstract Expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler. 


    Basquiat also credited Franz Kline as one of his most significant influences. Kline’s technique, using wide house-painter brushes loaded with paint on large canvases, inspired a freedom of mark-making evident in Untitled (ELMAR). Here, bold black lines define the warrior's frame, while broad, multidirectional strokes of color set the scene. Basquiat's use of acrylic, oilstick, and spray paint captures a flurry of gestures, showcasing his improvisational, fast-paced, and multilayered approach. Annina Nosei recalls her first encounter with the work at her SoHo gallery, sensing it as a true “painting about painting,” and the liberation that such action invites.vii


    Franz Kline, Mahoning, 1956. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Image: © Whitney Museum of American Art / Licensed by Scala / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2024 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York  

    Basquiat took inspiration from a dizzying array of source material and his studio environment further reflected his immersion in the creative process, with open books and unfinished works strewn about, accompanied by a soundtrack of Jazz, Bebop, and television. Often combining a variety of influences, like Christianity, African rock art and hieroglyphics, and his own Puerto Rican and Haitian heritages into one piece, Basquiat’s canon of archetypal figures carry out their own ritualistic functions. In Untitled (ELMAR), Basquiat undertakes a pseudo-survey of human and art history, presenting a quasi-anthropological exploration that celebrates life and visual culture with rhapsodic fervor.

    “I get my facts from books, stuff on atomizers, the blues, ethyl alcohol, geese in Egyptian glyphs… I don’t take credit for my facts. The facts exist without me.”
    —Jean-Michel Basquiat vii

    In Untitled (ELMAR), Basquiat conjures a large-scale warrior figure, using vigorous brushstrokes in the style of Jean Dubuffet's art Brut and subtly exposing its skeletal structure in a nod to his own enduring fascination with anatomy. Constructed with a mix of red flesh and oilstick bone, reinforced by metallic gold spray paint, Basquiat's creation resembles a modern-day Frankensteinian fighter, assembled with unmistakable strength. The figure is enveloped in a haloed aura (coming from the Latin “aurea” for “golden”), a vivid burst of yellow forming something loosely akin to a mandorla—an almond-shaped motif often associated with Christian iconography depicting scenes from the life of Christ—or an aureole. Adding to the sense of sanctity, Basquiat’s use of gold embellishments and a haloed figure set against a bright background mirrors the shimmering gold accents often found in similar scenes, as illustrated in Medieval illuminated manuscripts. 


    Extending from the warrior's raised arms are a flurry of arrows and a bow, complemented by a crown of thorns atop his head, establishing a delicate equilibrium between European monarchical and African tribal power symbols. Basquiat's inspiration here likely draws from Burchard Brentjes' 1969 text, African Rock Art, a volume he was known to keep in his studio. The rich array of photographs and diagrams therein appealed to Basquiat for their cultural significance, aligning with his preference for a raw and unschooled style of drawing, as well as his affinity for graffiti, with cave art arguably serving as its earliest manifestation.


    [Left] Rock art at Wadi Abu Wasil, Eastern Desert of Egypt, prior to 3000 BC.
    [Right] Unknown artist/maker, The Crucifixion, begun after 1234–completed before 1262, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. 

    In a similar fashion to other large-scale single figure paintings from the period, such as Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump, 1982, formerly in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, in Untitled (ELMAR) Basquiat conveys his warrior's strength anatomically. Curator and art historian Richard Marshall suggests that Basquiat may have been influenced to incorporate such boldness and aggression into his canvases upon encountering Picasso's "Avignon" paintings, displayed at the Pace Gallery in New York in the winter of 1981. In the works on view, Picasso returned to drawing anatomically graphic and distorted figures in bold colors, an expressive style Basquiat undoubtedly felt an affinity for, given his lifelong admiration of the Spanish artist. Reflecting on his early exposure to Picasso’s work, Basquiat once stated that, “seeing Guernica was my favorite thing as a kid.”ix Indeed, a parallel can easily be drawn between the figure at the far right of Guernica, crying out to the heavens with arms raised, illuminated by the jagged light of a burning house behind them—along with the faded dove, a symbol of peace obscured amidst the unfolding violence—and the heroic figure in the present work, confronting their winged target.


    Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937. Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © 2024 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

    In the present work, a “fallen angel” figure at left, birdlike and adorned with the recurring crown-of-thorns motif—which doubles as a halo—hovers above a luminous blue sea of scribbled waves and the text “ELMAR”, suggesting a modern-day Icarus on the verge of descent. Through this lens, Basquiat’s archetypal warrior at right takes on an additional layer of meaning, signaling the angel’s imminent downfall. Basquiat often used variations of the fallen angel motif in his art to delve into themes of identity, power dynamics, and societal alienation. Throughout art history, artists have employed this image, notably seen in Alexandre Cabanel's eponymous painting, The Fallen Angel, 1847, at the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, to depict a majestic yet sorrowful figure symbolizing rebellion, spiritual downfall, and the eternal struggle between divine and mortal realms. In Untitled (ELMAR), Basquiat continues this tradition, portraying the figure caught between heaven and earth, poised for a fall. This concept reflects his own experiences as a Black artist navigating a white-dominated art world, where he felt a perpetual sense of alienation and a fear of losing relevance. 


    Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (L.A. Painting), 1982. Private Collection. Artwork: © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

    The winged figure in Untitled (ELMAR) also resonates with Basquiat’s recurring bird motif, notably observed in his monumental painting created the same year, Untitled (LA Painting), 1982. Basquiat's birds embody bravery and freedom, doubling as messengers from celestial realms. They evoke symbolism akin to ancient Roman culture where open-winged birds represented power and divine communication, their movements believed to reflect the will of the gods. Additionally, the bird figure may be a veiled reference to one of Basquiat’s heroes, the prominent American jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. Parker, nicknamed “Bird”, was a leading figure in the development of bebop, whose improvised style greatly influenced Basquiat.x The artist was known to listen to Parker's music in the studio.


    One of the key motifs in the present painting is a depiction of a skull or human head, which originates from an important oilstick on paper drawing entitled Untitled (Indian Head). Now in the collection of Museo Jumex in Mexico City, this image later became a recurring feature in several of Basquiat’s major works. In his poem titled J.M.B.’s Dehistories, Trinidadian-Bahamian poet Christian Campbell provides insightful interpretations of recurring visual motifs, such as the skulls and human heads that inhabit Basquiat’s oeuvre. He asserts that, “Basquiat’s heads are cartooned, spooked, fried, shocked, damaged. Strange as it may seem, I hear these heads laughing.” He describes them as if cackling in a mad chorus but concludes that, “They see us to the bone, just as we see them. They are witnesses. They are messengers. They have something true to tell us.”xi


    Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Indian Head), 1981, Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico. Artwork: © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York


    In Untitled (ELMAR), Basquiat’s replacement of the painted head with an intricate, additive rendering marks a stark complexity compared to the gestural lines created through painting, spraying, and drawing. Alongside his use of fragmented written language, inspired by William Burroughs' cut-up technique, Basquiat employed collage elements to counteract both formally and materially with his intense painterly work. This integration of collage evokes parallels with the Constructivist and Cubist movements, particularly in the way Picasso and others utilized fragmented imagery to challenge traditional notions of representation. Similarly, Basquiat's approach resonates with Robert Rauschenberg's combines, where disparate elements are amalgamated to blur the lines between painting and sculpture. By incorporating collage into his oeuvre, Basquiat not only expands upon the rich legacy of assemblage but also engages in a broader artistic dialogue that spans across movements and generations. 


    Moreover, Basquiat's strategic use of collage in Untitled (ELMAR) reflects the fragmentation within diasporic narratives due to migration, highlighting the complexities of personal histories amidst received ones. In the present work, where the only collaged element is the head of the central figure, the act of severing the head from the body takes on poignant symbolism. This detachment may symbolize the fragmentation and dislocation experienced by individuals within diasporic communities, where identity and history are often separated and reassembled in complex ways. It also resonates with a Basquiat-ism that originates in a painting from the same year, Charles the First, 1982: "MOST YOUNG KINGS GET THEIR HEADS CUT OFF," which speaks to the systemic erasure faced by marginalized groups, particularly young black men, in society. By isolating the head in Untitled (ELMAR), Basquiat highlights the vulnerability and precariousness of identity, as well as the pervasive violence and oppression faced by those who dare to assert their agency and cultural significance. Thus, the act of cutting off the head serves as a potent metaphor for the struggles and resilience of marginalized communities in the face of historical and contemporary injustices.

    “It is only in writing these notes that I realize how difficult it is to describe Basquiat’s paintings as representational objects. Just when we think we have seized something essential about them, the essence evaporates. The paintings seem to slip away right and left, despite their remarkable compositional strength—a centripetal tension between all the elements that seems to owe more to a conceptual and poetic toughness than to Basquiat’s obvious gift for formal harmony.” 
    —Francesco Pellizzi 

    In Untitled (ELMAR), a torrent of imagery—ranging from symbols and diagrams to words—dances across the canvas against a backdrop of boundless blue and electric yellow. This chaotic yet controlled display manifests Basquiat's recurring themes of identity, existentialism, and societal disillusionment. It synthesizes life, death, history, and mythology into a vibrant tapestry, where Basquiat's insatiable hunger for knowledge and boundless creativity blur the lines between street art and the established norms of the traditional art world. 


    While rooted in New York City, Basquiat transcended his environment, grappling with a history and identity extending beyond its confines. This duality extends beyond personal identity, reflecting complex social, political, and cultural dynamics, particularly the struggle for equilibrium between black and white worlds. Basquiat explores duality through various lenses, juxtaposing people and objects, words and images, and reimagining concepts of black and white, light and dark, challenging conventional notions of good and evil.


    Central to Basquiat’s practice was representing seemingly conflicting aspects of human experience within a single work. Whether contrasting opposing colors, depicting scales of justice, or exploring themes like “God and Law,” the artist was consistently concerned with duality and reconciling opposing forces. In Untitled (ELMAR), Basquiat portrays the duality of the hunter and the hunted, alongside the notion of ascent followed by inevitable decline, echoing his own rise in the art world. Basquiat’s fascination with stardom and "burnout" becomes apparent in references to artists like Charlie Parker. Caught between a desire for fame and a fear of being consumed or exploited, the present work captures Basquiat’s apprehension of flying too close to the sun, symbolized by the pregnant moment before the hero’s downfall. Here, the winged figure soars like Icarus toward the heavens, defying limitations in pursuit of freedom. "Only one thing worries me," Basquiat once told his father, "Longevity."xii


    i Francesco Pellizzi, “Black and White All Over: Poetry and Desolation Painting,” pp. 9-17, Tracy Williams, ed., Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York, 1989, p. 15.

    ii David Salle, quoted in private correspondence, n.d.  

    iii Jeffrey Deitch, quoted in Alexxa Gotthardt, “What Makes 1982 Basquiat’s Most Valuable Year,” Artsy, April 1, 2018, online

    iv Jeffrey Deitch, quoted in Ibid.

    v Andy Warhol, quoted by Pat Hackett, ed., The Andy Warhol Diaries, New York, 1989, p. 462.

    vi René Ricard, “The Radiant Child,” Artforum, vol. XX, no. 4, December 1981, p. 43.

    vii Annina Nosei, quoted in interview conducted by Scott Nussbaum at Phillips, New York, April, 2024. 

    viii Jean-Michel Basquiat cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Barbican, Basquiat: Boom for Real, 2017, p. 189

    ix Jean-Michel Basquiat, quoted in “Interview by Becky Johnston and Tamra Davis,” The Jean-Michel Basquiat Reader: Writings, Interviews, and Critical Responses, Berkeley, 2021, p. 52.

    x Olivier Michelon, “Time is Now,” Jean-Michel Basquiat, exh. cat., Paris, 2019, pp. 202 -208.

    xi Christian Campbell, “J.M.B.'s dehistories,” pp. 209-210, Dieter Buchhart, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time, Ontario, Canada, 2015. 

    xii Jean-Michel Basquiat, quoted in Lexi Manatakis, “Jean-Michel Basquiat in his own words,” Dazed, November 21 2017, online.

    • Provenance

      Annina Nosei Gallery, New York
      Elaine Dannheisser (acquired from the above)
      Francesco Pellizzi, New York (acquired from the above via Annina Nosei Gallery in 1984)
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Hempstead, Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University; Bethlehem, Lehigh University Art Galleries, 1979–1989 American, Italian, Mexican Art from the Collection of Francesco Pellizzi, April 16–November 2, 1989, no. 4, pp. 6, 19, 58 (illustrated, p. 19)
      Los Angeles, Gagosian Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings and Drawings 1980-1988, February 12–March 14, 1998, no. 13, n.p. (illustrated; detail illustrated on the front and back cover)
      Houston, The Menil Collection, 17 Contemporaries: Artists from America, Italy, and Mexico - the Eighties, June 11–August 15, 1999, n.p.
      New York, Gagosian Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat, February 7–April 6, 2013, pp. 88-89, 203 (illustrated)
      Paris, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Jean-Michel Basquiat, October 3, 2018–January 4, 2019, no. 66, pp. 181-183 (illustrated, pp. 182-183)

    • Literature

      Ted Castle, “Jean-Michel Basquiat,” Artistes Revue bimestrielle d’art contemporain, no. 14, January-February 1983, p. 29 (illustrated)
      Richard D. Marshall and Jean-Louis Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris, 1996, no. 3, pp. 90-91 (illustrated, p. 90)
      Tony Shafrazi, Jeffrey Deitch and Richard D. Marshall, eds., Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York, 1999, p. 129 (illustrated)
      Richard D. Marshall and Jean-Louis Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, vol. II, Paris, 2000, no. 3, pp. 138-139 (illustrated, p. 138)
      Léa Di Michele, “La Fondation Louis Vuitton Rend Hommage à Jean-Michel Basquiat,” Femmes Magazine, February 8, 2018, online (illustrated)
      Hans Werner Holzwarth, Benedikt Taschen and Eleanor Nairne, eds., Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Art of Storytelling, Cologne, 2018, pp. 138-139, 494 (illustrated, pp. 138-139)
      Nazanin Lankarani, “Egon Schiele & Jean-Michel Basquiat,” Gagosian Quarterly, Spring 2019, p. 76
      Dieter Buchhart, ed., Jean-Michel Basquiat: Xerox, Berlin, 2019, fig. 9, pp. 18, 21 (illustrated, p. 21)

    • 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.

      View More Works

Basquiat’s World: Works Formerly from the Collection of Francesco Pellizzi


Untitled (ELMAR)

signed "Jean-Michel Basquiat" on the reverse
acrylic, oilstick, spray paint and Xerox collage on canvas
68 x 93 1/8 in. (172.7 x 236.5 cm)
Executed in 1982.

Full Cataloguing

$40,000,000 - 60,000,000 

Sold for $46,479,000

Contact Specialist

Carolyn Kolberg
Associate Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1206

Modern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 May 2024