A time capsule group of eight paintings and drawings by Jean-Michel Basquiat from the collection of the actor, producer and musician Johnny Depp attests to his understanding and engagement with one of the icons of 20th-century painting.
Christie’s has been in dialogue with Depp since the start of the year, and following momentum in the Basquiat market since the auction record-breaking success of Untitled (1982) in May, this group of works from the early 1980s is set to be a focal point of both the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening and Day Auctions.
‘Nothing can replace the warmth and immediacy of Basquiat’s poetry, or the absolute questions and truths that he delivered,’ Depp told Enrico Navarra for the book Jean-Michel Basquiat, published in 2000. ‘The beautiful and disturbing music of his paintings, the cacophony of his silence that attacks our senses, will live far beyond our breath.’
Since the 1990s, Depp has cultivated a detailed appreciation of Basquiat, seeking out pieces that resonate with his understanding of the artist.
The Basquiat works offered during our 20th Century sales were assembled by Depp over the course of more than 25 years, and date almost exclusively from 1981 — the year that witnessed Basquiat’s transformation from clandestine street artist to global superstar. Channelling the creative energy that fuelled the musical and artistic underbelly of post-punk New York, they offer a glimpse into this meteoric period in the artist’s career.
Widely exhibited in many of the Basquiat’s most important retrospectives, the works bear witness to the birth of a revolutionary visual language — gestures, words and symbols — that characterised his work at the height of his powers in 1981 and 1982.
These Basquiat canvases line up alongside those of a selection of international names in a season of auctions that is estimated to total over £90,000,000. They are complemented by a strong core of Post-War and Contemporary art in Christie’s 250th anniversary sale, including Francis Bacon’s landmark canvas Version No. 2 of a Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe (1968) and Lucian Freud’s Ib and her husband, (1992).
‘This June promises to be the most exciting in many years,’ says Francis Outred, Chairman and Head of Post War and Contemporary Art, EMERI. ‘Combining the celebration of our 250 years, led by works in the Defining British Art loan exhibition and auction — which includes masterpieces by Bacon, Freud, Bridget Riley and Frank Auerbach, together with works from the defining oeuvres of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Richter and Basquiat — this season promises to be the best since our record-breaking result for Europe in June 2012.’
Early works by Pop icons Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein lead the evening auction, and they are joined by a group of the next generation of American artists including Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Mike Kelley, Glenn Ligon and Kelley Walker. Giants of European painting also feature, with Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (811-2) leading the line-up of modern masters.