Jean-Michel Basquiat - Contemporary Day Sale London Wednesday, July 2, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Galerie Michael Haas, Berlin
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1988

  • Exhibited

    Berlin, Galerie Michael Haas, Basquiat, 5 February – 3 March, 1988

  • Catalogue Essay

    Jean-Michel Basquiat’s expressive, poetic style is exemplified here in this untitled drawing. Completed in the year before his untimely death at the age of 27, the simple, childlike symbols and words are an expression of Basquiat’s biting social commentary.

    Basquiat began his career as a graffiti artist under the pseudonym SAMO, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. His graffiti background is apparent in the raw, fresh lines of the present lot. For Basquiat, drawing was not an inferior medium to painting, but had equal potential for expression and was uniquely able to articulate the energy of the artist. The style of street art is here fused with experiments in semiotics and reflects the artist’s inner thoughts and desires. Employing imagery from African, Aztec and Greek cultures as well as making reference to his own Puerto Rican and Haitian heritage, his style can be described as Neo-Expressionism, in the manner pioneered by Jean Dubuffet and Karel Appel. His references to other cultures are juxtaposed with references to the social climate of New York in the 1980s, revealing flawed power structures and hinting at fundamental failings in social discourse. The symbols in this work are elusive in their meaning, and the combinations of words and symbols are highly ambiguous, as references to prison, Stonehenge and rheumatism are placed side by side. The apparently random distribution and combinations of words and motifs mirror Basquiat’s inner train of thoughts, or stream of consciousness, which, combined with the raw style of drawing, imbues the image with a sense of intimacy and personal significance.

  • 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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coloured pencil and charcoal on paper
44.3 x 38 cm (17 1/2 x 14 7/8 in.)
Signed 'Basquiat' on the reverse.

£70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for £74,500

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Head of Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

Contemporary Day Sale

London Auction 3 July 2014 2PM