Jean-Michel Basquiat - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, May 17, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Annina Nosei Gallery, New York
    Vrej Baghoomian, Inc., New York
    Twiga Collection, New York
    Marcel Sitcoske Gallery, San Francisco
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    In Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Swinging Diamonds, 1987, the lower right portion of the sheet is filled with the artist's unmistakable hieroglyphics. A cascading waterfall of signs spills across the picture, revealing a pool of various shapes, portraits, and text, all executed with precision and a vivid palette. The lines are bold and applied with unabashed resoluteness, varying greatly from the vigorous yet unrestrained hand of earlier works. The coloring is controlled and stays within the boundaries and confines of each shape across the surface. While dynamic, each symbol maintains its own space, prohibiting any crossover between forms; however, though each is contained, the symbols together read almost like a letter, challenging the viewer to decode the message within.

    Created a year before the artist’s death, Swinging Diamonds, 1987 captures a sense of care and attention that is unrecognizable in many of Basquiat's earlier work. Accustomed to working with abandon when it came to wielding a paint brush and oil sticks, Basquiat here displays a discipline that seems to be drawn from experience. Each letter of text, from “widow” to “non-belligerent”, to the title “swinging diamonds,” is printed with the intent of an author who knows precisely the message he wishes to convey. The concentration of drawings in the lower right portion, once again, seems to be a deliberate choice, as if the artist restricted himself to stay within an assigned quadrant. The juxtaposition of the highly inundated corner and the purity of the remaining sheet, coupled with the vibrant palette and bold execution of each rendering, makes the present lot a moment of visual clarity amongst the entropy that is Basquiat.

  • 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.

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Swinging Diamonds

crayon, pencil, oil stick on paper
30 x 22 1/4 in. (76.2 x 56.5 cm.)
Initialed and dated "JMB 87" on the reverse. This work is registered in the archives of the Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

$200,000 - 300,000 

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

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York 17 May 2013 10am