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Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)

Extra Cigarette

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)
Extra Cigarette
signed, titled and dated '"EXTRA CIGARETTE Jean Michel Basquiat Sept. 1982' (on the reverse)
acrylic and oilstick on glass and wood
33 1/8 x 33½ x 1 7/8 in.
Executed in 1982.
Private collection
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 18 November 1999, lot 88
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
R. Marshall and J.L. Prat, eds., Jean-Michel Basquiat, vol. I, Paris, 1996, p. 54, no. 2 (illustrated in color).
R. Marshall and J.L. Prat, eds, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 2000, p. 80, no. 2 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Painted during a crucial year for the artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat's Extra Cigarette, uses discarded debris found on the streets of New York as a canvas on which he inscribes his unique child-like language of signs and symbols. His choice of a window frame, complete with its original glass panes, latches and chains, reflects his early days as an artist. Struggling to afford canvases, he would paint on any surface he could find including doors, boxes windows and walls and by appropriating a found object the piece becomes part of the city from which it is taken.

At the age of seven, Basquiat had been severely injured after being involved in a car crash while playing ball in a Brooklyn street and spent several weeks in hospital. The car is symbolic of American culture and by repeating the motif as broken and in need of repair Basquiat reflects his own pessimistic view of the broken nature of society at the time. The crowns are Basquiat's own trademark symbol, often including them as symbols of respect and admiration, using them in works he felt particularly satisfied with or in relation to people he regarded as heroes.

The reference to "salt" in the upper right section has been taken to represent his growing political interst in the commodification of natural resources and the inequalities of global trade. Finally the /e symbol, which Basquiat first introduced to his works in the late 1970s as a seal of approval, was the artists way of not just identifying the works as his own, but also commenting on the concept of legitmacy, ownership and authorship.

Even while he had attained an astonishing level of success, Basquiat remained acutely aware of the imbalance of power in the art world in which he triumphed, where white dealers and collectors held sway. He saw himself in this world as a defiant warrior who had risen from the streets through sheer tenacity and talent, and in the process paved the way for a new generation of artists that would follow. As fellow artist Keith Haring commented, 'Perhaps his antics helped to show the art world its own face. Maybe they even learned something' (K. Haring, "Remembering Basquiat," Vogue, November 1988, P. 234).

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