• Post-War & Contemporary Evenin auction at Christies

    Sale 2219

    Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale

    10 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 17

    Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)

    Untitled (14 Drawings)

    Price Realised  


    Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)
    Untitled (14 Drawings)
    ink, oilstick, acrylic and spray enamel on fourteen sheets of paper
    each: 30 x 22½ in. (76.2 x 57.2 cm.)
    Executed in 1981. (14)

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    This important collection of fourteen untitled drawings by Jean-Michel Basquiat forms a comprehensive lexicon of the street poetry that established his reputation in New York's underground art scene in the early 1980s, introducing the subjects that would preoccupy him throughout his phenomenally productive but tragically brief career. At barely twenty years of age, Basquiat had gained widespread notoriety for the disjointed aphorisms of his alter-ego SAMO, an abbreviation for Same Old Bullshit, whose spray painted words formed a conspicuous part of the city's landscape. In his determination to become a painter and distinguish himself from New York's burgeoning graffiti scene, Basquiat ended his SAMO identity by the end of 1980 but retained his concentrated philosophical mottos as a recurrent feature in his unique painterly expressions of raw urban primitivism.

    Created in 1981, these early drawings convey the range of Basquiat's primary conceptual concerns, offering an index to his motivations and the meanings inherent in his paintings. In these works, Basquiat expresses his skepticism towards economic exchange and the commodification of natural resources with the slogans like 'Milk' and 'Gold Wood', stamping them with a copyright symbol as a sign of originality and an ironic comment on the notion of the ownership of ideas. In addition, the drawings inscribed 'Origin of Cotton' and 'Tar Town' signal his identification with the marginalization of black people in society, whilst his tribute to 'Famous Negro Athletes', including baseball star Hank Aaron, are crowned as a symbol of his respect and admiration. The stark austerity of these works stand in contrast to the frenzied visual overload typically associated with Basquiat's paintings, but their strong graphic sensibility indicates his masterful understanding of composition, forming a clear distillation of the themes that propelled him from Bowery district street urchin and graffiti sloganeer into the enfant terrible of the international art world within a few short years.

    Special Notice

    From time to time, Christie's may offer a lot which it owns in whole or in part. This is such a lot.


    Annina Nosei Gallery, New York
    Larry Warsh, New York
    Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1996


    L. Warsh, ed., Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Notebooks, New York, 1993, pp. 14-16 (illustrated).
    Jean-Michel Basquiat: obras sul papel, exh. cat., Buenos Aires, 1997, p. 118 (illustrated).
    J. E. Muñoz, Disidentifications: Queers of Color and The Performance of Politics, Minneapolis, 1999, p. 50 (illustrated).
    Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat, New York, 1999, p. 25 and 28 (illustrated).


    New York, Annina Nosei Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat, March-April 1982.
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Houston, The Menil Collection, Des Moines Art Center and Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Jean-Michel Basquiat, October 1992-January 1994, pp. 47, 90-91 (illustrated).
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Black Male: Representation of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art, November 1994-March 1995, pp. 39 and 72, (illustrated).
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art and Toronto Art Gallery, Keith Haring: A Retrospective, June 1997-January 1998.
    New York, Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art and Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Basquiat, March 2005-February 2006, pp. 24-25 (illustrated in color).
    New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, The Other Side, May-July 2006.