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  • Provenance

    Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris

  • Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Yvon Lambert, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1988; New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 23 October, 1992 – 14 February, 1993; London, Serpentine Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1996; Malaga, Junta de Andalucia, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 16 May – 7 July, 1996   

  • Literature

    M. Enciri, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris, 1989, p. 137 (illustrated); Exhibition catalogue, Whitney Museum of Modern Art, Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York, 1992, p. 222 (illustrated); R. D. Marshall, J.L. Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris, 1996, 1st edition, vol. II, p. 152, no. 3 (illustrated); T. Safrazi, J. Deitch, R. D. Marshall, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1999, p. 278 (illustrated); R. D. Marshall, J.L. Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris, 1996, 2nd edition, vol. II, p. 258, no. 3 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Jean-Michel Basquiat is very frequently referred to as the artist-rebel of his time, coming to fame with a troublesome body of work that tormented theartistic community as much as his counterpart Andy Warhol. Although a knowledge of Basquiat comes laden with tragic accounts of an inability to restrain from vice, this fact does nothing to overshadow the sheer brilliance of the work he created in his brief and exciting artistic career. The artist had the most exceptional tendency to execute paintings that were loaded with attitude and turmoil ultimately representing in full both the identity of the artist and the culture of excess and loss he found himself surrounded by. The work of Basquiat is outwardly aggressive, presenting infinite layers of a consciousness that battled with its own great intellect and its sense of not belonging. Born in 1960, Jean-Michel Basquiat displayed an aptitude for art at an early age and by seventeen years old, Basquiat and a friend were viciously spray-painting graffiti art on slum buildings in lower Manhattan with the signature of SAMO. Living as a black male artist in New York in the 1980s, Basquiat faced huge obstacles both institutionally and publicly, achieving little recognition and acknowledgement for his graffiti-style paintings as spiritually meaningful works of art and not simply vandalism.
     
    Basquiat found influence for his subject matter from a never ending plethora of sources and experiences. His background growing up on the streets of New York, his multi-cultural heritage, the artistic environment he found himself embedded within, all managed to find their way into his work. Basquiat’s work became a montage of symbols of spirituality and mass culture, all of which were treated equally with egalitarianism that only
    Basquiat himself could embody. In virtually all of his works, Basquiat also included carefully chosen words and phrases in different languages and this is attributed to his Puerto Rican and Haitian roots and his abilities to
    speak French, Spanish and English. The combination of provocative images and relevant subjects, juxtaposed with text and language that are rich in reference and allusion, makes Basquiat’s work original and complex yet
    universal and engaging.
     
    In the early years of his career, Basquiat often depicted skeletal figures and mask like faces to express his obsession with mortality. In the middle period from 1982-1985, Basquiat featured multi-panel paintings and individual canvasses with exposed stretcher bars and worked the surface densely with writing and collage. The present lot, Light Blue Movers was executed in the last phase of his life from 1986-1988, which displays a new type of figurative depiction, in a new painterly style, with different symbols, surces and content. It appears that Basquiat was breaking away from his earlier motifs that had become too familiar and comfortable, and pushing
    ahead into new territory.
     
    Created in the year of Warhol’s untimely death, and one year before Basquiat’s own demise, in Light Blue Movers, Basquiat introduces a new trademark logo in the tag ‘IDEAL’, with its multiple references: to the toy manufacturing company, to a standard of perfect beauty, to the word itself, expressed with a colourful child-like naivety. The tag ‘IDEAL’ soon before the artist’s tragic death is a frightening avenue into the thought that
    Basquiat was well aware of his inner moral crisis and the ultimate effect that it will have on him as it takes his life. Light Blue Movers hones in directly on its subject, Basquiat stripped the painting of any visual complexity, a style adopted late in the artist’s career, this painting appears sparse and focused on displaying a singular narrative. It is this fact that makes this particular lot interesting in regards to Basquiat’s larger body of work, the artist employed a reserved pallette to articulate this equally explicit and loaded painting. Instead of the raw, broad and jagged overlapping swathes of colour, sometimes with whole areas of drawn and painting images cancelled out, one experiences a shift in Basquiat’s painterly style that has now strongly characterised this group of late paintings. Looking at the work, one encounters the simplistic almost bare surface of the canvas that flatly covers the entire surface, serving as a ground for his isolated figures. In Light Blue Movers, two dark-coloured figures with elongated limbs and feet, neither overtly fleshy nor bony, are carrying what seems to be a heavy plush red sofa chair. The two figures appear to be moving across the canvas, image forges differing narratives within the mind of the audience, although explicit in his imagery, Basquiat manages to allow some space for the imagination of his audience. ‘The altered style, subject and mood of these late paintings shows Basquiat exploring a new vocabulary, expressing his deep felt concerns with issues of race, identity and aesthetics.’ (Taken from Palacio Episcopal de Malaga, exhibition catalogue: Basquiat, p. 146)
     
    The work of Basquiat gives off an immediate aura of aggression and ferocity, yet the poetic composition on canvas balances out the psychological and conceptual undertones, fusing into a cohesive intellectual and visual statement. This work is a fine example of Basquiat’s ability to merge figurative and gestural art forms with a multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary attitude, to articulate his own unique artistic expression, one that is intuitive, thoughtful and literate.

  • 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. 

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Light Blue Movers

1987
Acrylic and oilstick on canvas.
274 x 285 cm. (108 x 112 1/5 in).
Signed, titled and dated 'LIGHT BLUE MOVERS Basquiat 87' on the reverse.

Estimate
£1,800,000 - 2,500,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

18 Oct 2008, 7pm
London