Jean-Michel Basquiat - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, March 4, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, QUIJ, 1985, Private Collection. Image: ADAGP Images, Paris / SCALA, Florence, Artwork: Artwork: © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022
    Jean-Michel Basquiat, QUIJ, 1985, Private Collection. Image: ADAGP Images, Paris / SCALA, Florence, Artwork: Artwork: © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022

    Offered at auction for the first time in more than thirty years, Windmill (1985) is a fascinating example of the artist’s practice. The tri-tonal drawing, rendered in oilstick and graphite depicts Basquiat’s interpretation of the mechanical workings of a windmill, alongside annotations verging on the whimsical. At first glance, the structure recalls an engineer’s blueprint with red and black outlines denoting the supports and moving components. These are overwritten with dotted lines and arrows which seemingly represent wind direction and the additions of further abstract diagrams and the inscription to the upper right corner reading ‘WIND WATER ELECTRICITY.’ Basquiat’s playful approach to symbolism is apparent in the artist’s inclusion of arrows which meet at opposing angles, the packet of pills and the tilted ladder in the lower half of the work. These additions strongly hint at a coded meaning but leave it just out of the viewer’s grasp.


    At the lower right corner, the work is titled with the subject matter and trademarked with the copyright ©, a signal to the artist’s origins as a graffiti artist of the streets of New York City under the moniker SAMO © (short for ‘same old’). Executed after Basquiat’s first gallery representation with Annina Nosei in 1981 and his first solo exhibition in early 1982 at her eponymous SoHo gallery, Windmill supercedes the peak of his career. Basquiat became the youngest artist to exhibit in documenta at the 7th edition in Kassel, West Germany, alongside artist’s such as Georg Baselitz and Alberto Burri. It was during this time, the artist had access to the tools and studio space which afforded him the freedom to produce the monumental masterpieces which define this seminal year.

    '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. The level of achievement was just astonishing. It was almost a miracle.'  —Jeffrey Deitch

    Windmill proved to be an important piece of work for Basquiat because it forms the basis for two large-format paintings. The first, Unit Filter GE, is key example of the works Basquiat created in collaboration with Andy Warhol at the suggestion of Bruno Bischofberger. Windmill is reproduced on an astringent yellow ground, overpainted with Basquiat’s capped figure on the left and black bust adorned with the artist’s iconic three-pointed crown. In the centre, Warhol’s contribution is a salute to his legacy as the founder of Pop Art with a pristine rendering of the logos of two ubiquitous American brands, General Electric and Arm and Hammer.  In QUIJ from 1985, Basquiat revisited Windmill alone, this time making the drawing centre stage, encircled by colour Xerox prints depicting of careful selection of his earlier pictures. The work exemplifies a more retrospective moment in the artist’s career, as Basquiat could reflect on the stratospheric success of the early 80s and in which Windmill plays a central role.


    Collector’s Digest


    •    Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist who rose to fame in the 1980s.


    •    Considered part of the Neo-expressionism movement, he was a pioneer of street art who addressed social issues such as the Black experience, power structures, discrepancies of wealth versus poverty and integration versus segregation, throughout his work. 


    •    Basquiat’s work straddles abstraction and figuration mixed with contemporary critique.


    •    Jean-Michel Basquiat’s contributions to the history of art will be celebrated in King Pleasure, an exhibition hosted and curated by his own family opening 9 April 2022. This show will present over 200 never-before-seen paintings, drawings, multimedia presentations, ephemera and artifacts to narrate the artist’s life from an intimate perspective. 

    • Provenance

      Private Collection
      Sotheby's, New York, 9 November 1989, lot 495
      Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in April 1996

    • 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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titled 'WINDMILL©' lower right; signed and dated 'Basquiat 1985' on the reverse
oilstick and graphite on paper
76.2 x 56.3 cm (30 x 22 1/8 in.)
Executed in 1985.

Full Cataloguing

£220,000 - 280,000 

Sold for £327,600

Contact Specialist

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 4 March 2022