Jean-Michel Basquiat - Under the Influence New York Thursday, September 19, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, acquired directly from the artist
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    Jean-Michel Basquiat is renowned for his fascination with popular printed materials such as comic books, advertisements and the medical text book Gray’s Anatomy, all of which comprise a visual lexicon of motifs and symbols that he continuously weaved throughout his paintings and drawings. He frequently reused and re-imagined these disparate graphic symbols, turning them into striking visual combinations sprinkled with poetic snippets, resulting in an artistic vocabulary that is simultaneously esoteric, elegant, and purposely naïve. The present lot,Untitled (1987), was created just one year before Basquiat’s death and depicts the multitude of the extracted motifs and signifiers for which he is so well known. Like much of his work from this era, this drawing references graphic symbols from Henry Dreyfuss’s 1972 Symbol Sourcebook. As R.D Marshall states, “This organized, codified, and identified system of containing information was particularly suited to Basquiat’s artistic style of quick and emblematic art making.” (R. D. Marshall as quoted in Enrico Navarra, ed., Jean-Michel Basquiat: Oeuvres sur Papier, Paris, 1999, p.42).

    For Basquiat, these symbols represented the world at its most basic level. As an ensemble, they generate an intellectual equation made even more mystical and mysterious by its pointed lack of color. 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.” (Mark Meyer, “Basquiat in History”, Basquiat, exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum of Art, 2005, p.51).

  • 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
16 1/8 x 13 3/4 in. (41 x 34.9 cm.)
Signed and dated "Jean-Michel Basquiat 87" on the reverse. This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

$90,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $100,000

Contact Specialist
Benjamin Godsill
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1260

Under the Influence

New York 19 September 2013 2pm