Jean-Michel Basquiat - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, May 15, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris
    Sotheby's, London, Contemporary Art, March 25, 1999, lot 17
    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, London, Contemporary Art Day Auction, February 13, 2013, lot 216
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Jean-Michel Basquiat began his career as a graffiti artist under the pseudonym SAMO, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. His graffiti background is apparent in the raw, graphic and fresh lines of this Untitled, 1983. For Basquiat, drawing was an equal medium to painting. Uniquely able to articulate the energy of the artist in the immediacy of putting pen to paper, drawing had an equal potential for powerful expression. He first applied this immediacy of thought and action to writing graffiti, which requires a quick hand. In the present work, the graphic style of street art is fused with experiments in semiotics, and reflects the artist’s inner thoughts and feelings. Employing imagery culled from his social and cultural milieu of the 1980s downtown New York scene, he has created a composition full of power symbols– the full meanings of which are not immediately comprehensible.

    For Basquiat, symbols represented the world at its most basic level. As an ensemble, they generate an intellectual equation made even more mysterious by their pointed lack of clear explanation or translation. Although they may be equations, they are not meant to be solved or deciphered through any linear formula. In creating and destroying, in scribbling and crossing out, Basquiat deters a definitive decoding of his work, leaving it open to infinite permutations and interpretative possibilities. In this way, he created “a calculated incoherence, calibrating the mystery of what such apparently meaning-laden pictures might ultimately mean.” (M. Meyer, “Basquiat in History”, Basquiat, exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum of Art, 2005, p. 51) Untitled from 1983 is a poignant example of this enigmatic artist and the powerful, yet elusive, oeuvre with which he has indelibly influenced the trajectory of contemporary western art far into the twenty-first century.

  • 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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oil stick on paper
30 x 22 1/4 in. (76.2 x 56.5 cm)
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Authentication Committee for the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $305,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Day Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Day Sale 15 May 2015 11am