ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from the Collection of Peter Brant
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)

Jean-Michel Basquiat

ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
Jean-Michel Basquiat
stamped with the Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. stamps and numbered ‘VF PO50.762’ (on the overlap)
metallic pigment, acrylic, silkscreen ink and urine on canvas
40 x 40 in. (101.6 x 101.6 cm.)
Executed in 1982.
Estate of Andy Warhol, New York
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York
Mugrabi Collection, New York, 1997
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2002
J. O'Connor and B. Liu, Unseen Warhol, New York, 1996, p. 107 (illustrated).
The Andy Warhol Show, exh. cat., La Triennale Di Milano, 2004, p. 162, no. 74 (illustrated).
E. Shanes, Warhol: The Life and Masterworks, New York, 2004, p. 77 (illustrated).
D. Hickey, Andy Warhol "Giant" Size, New York, 2009, p. 554 (illustrated).
R. Golden, Andy Warhol Polaroids 1958-1987, Cologne, 2017, p. 14 (illustrated).
M. Dayton Hermann, Warhol on Basquiat, Cologne, 2019, p. 274 (illustrated).
Helsinki Kunsthalle, Andy Warhol, August-November 1997.
Warsaw, National Museum and Krakow, National Museum, Andy Warhol, March-June 1998, p. 131, no. 159 (illustrated).
Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg and Kunsthalle Wien, Andy Warhol: A Factory, October 1998-May 1999, no. 527 (illustrated).
Venice, Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Basquiat a Venezia, June-October 1999.
Rio de Janeiro, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Warhol, October-December 1999.
Kochi Museum of Art; Tokyo, Bunkamura Museum of Art; Umeda-Osaka, Daimaru Museum; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art; Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art; Nagoya City Art Museum and Niigata City Art Museum, Andy Warhol, February 2000-February 2001, p. 165, no. 158 (illustrated).
Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie and London, Tate Modern, Andy Warhol: Retrospective, October 2001-January 2002, p. 248, no. 197 (illustrated).
Monaco, Grimaldi Forum, SuperWarhol, July-August 2003, p. 475, no. 240 (illustrated).
New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Andy Warhol: Portraits, May-October 2005, pp. 219 and 308 (illustrated).
Greenwich, The Brant Foundation, Andy Warhol, May-October 2013.
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Andy Warhol, October 2013-February 2014, n.p. (illustrated).
Rome, Palazzo Cipolla, Andy Warhol, April-September 2014, n.p. (illustrated) .
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again, November 2018-January 2020, pp. 369 and 371 (illustrated).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

In this striking 1982 painting, Andy Warhol admits the young Jean-Michel Basquiat to his pantheon of twentieth century cultural icons. At just 23 years old, and producing some of the most iconic works of his career, Basquiat alongside icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Elvis Presley, was a figure who defined creativity in the American century. The gleaming image of the young artist also celebrated the remarkable friendship between the two men: Warhol, the established master of Pop Art, and Basquiat, the brash wunderkind of the New York art scene. Thought to be the only example in private hands, this rare and deeply personal work dates from a period which marked the highpoint of Basquiat’s painterly authority, and which also saw a bold new inventiveness appear in Warhol’s work. Both artists, in their own unique ways, redefined the very framework of twentieth century art, and have done much to shape the current cultural landscape; from music to fashion, and YouTube to TikTok, their visual philosophy remains as relevant today as it ever did. Warhol’s depiction of Basquiat stands as the only known portrait executed in oxidation form, and one of its sister paintings is housed in the permanent collection of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The third example of this painting stayed with Jean-Michel Basquiat for his entire life, and still remains in the artist's estate. The exceptional clarity of this particular screened image, along with the uniform distribution of the oxidation, marks the present work as a highly accomplished and intoxicating composition. This example has been privately held in the Collection of Peter Brant for nearly two decades, and during that time has been widely exhibited, including most recently at the Whitney Museum’s 2018 critically acclaimed retrospective, Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again.

From the shimmering copper surface of this 40 x 40 inch canvas, the larger-than-life face of Jean-Michel Basquiat stares out at us with supreme authority. Wearing his hair like a crown, his direct stare is powerful, and although his expression conveys no emotion, we sense that we are in the presence of greatness. This feeling is, in part, due to the clarity of Warhol’s screened image; by using just the right amount of paint and applying the correct amount of consistent pressure as the inks are pushed through the screen, we are left with an image in which even the smallest and most insignificant detail is lavishly rendered.

The sharp contours of Basquiat’s jawline are contrasted with the chiaroscuro shadows that envelope the rest of his face; his eyes show pinpoints of light that are reflected in his iris; and the individual eyelashes and weave of his jacket are depicted with precision. This exactness is contrasted by the bursts of oxidation that orbit around Basquiat’s head, like stars in the young artist’s universe. Warhol has clearly taken the time to celebrate young friend’s likeness as that of a singular figure.

In choosing to depict Jean-Michel Basquiat in this way, Warhol elevates the 23 year-old artist to the status of an icon’s icon. In doing so, he is inducted into a body of work that includes Gold Marilyn Monroe, 1962 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), and his shimmering Silver Liz [Ferus Type], 1963 (Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh). Warhol reserved his use of metallic paint for only a select few of his subjects. In addition to Monroe and Taylor, Elvis Presley and Jacqueline Kennedy were two of the subjects afford this honor.

In addition, by rendering Basquiat's likeness against a shimmering ground, Warhol also anoints Basquiat as a literal icon as well as a symbolic one. While growing up in Pittsburgh, the young Andrew Warhola lived in the fervently Catholic Ruska Dolina, the Ruthenian section of Pittsburgh. He would regularly go to mass with his Slavic grandmother where they would pray before a large shimmering altarpiece studded with religious icons of the Holy Family and other saints. This habit continued throughout his life,
and even in New York, Warhol would regularly slip into the back of the St. Vincent Ferrer church on Lexington Avenue to pray in the presence of the mosaic icons that decorate the walls of the church.

In 1982, the year in which Warhol painted Jean-Michel Basquiat, the veteran artist was undergoing something of a resurgence. After a decade spent working mainly on commissions from society hostesses or midwestern businessmen keen to be immortalized in his Pop style aesthetic, Warhol became reinvigorated with the act of painting and embarked on a period of remarkable innovation. This was due in part to his developing friendship with a generation of younger, more avant-garde artists. Among them was Jean-Michel Basquiat to whom Warhol was formally introduced by the dealer Bruno Bischofberger, and soon the pair developed an unlikely friendship.

It was like some crazy-art world marriage and they were the odd couple. The relationship was symbiotic. Jean-Michel thought he needed Andy's fame, and Andy thought he needed Jean-Michel's new blood. Jean-Michel gave Andy a rebellious image again.(R. Cutrone quoted in Warhol: The Biography by Victor Bockris, Cambridge, 2003, pp.461-2).

Like Warhol, who, during press interviews often gave contradictory statements about his past, Basquiat had fabricated a persona that he presented to the public that was contradictory to who he truly was. Emerging first out of the graffiti art movement, Basquiat chose ‘SAMO’ as his ‘tag’ referring to ‘Same Old Shit,' Basquiat was, in fact, the educated son of a middle class African-American lawyer from the borough of Queens. Warhol admired how Basquiat rebelled against artistic convention and felt it gave him an edge, and connections to a younger generation of up and coming artists.
Warhol-lore has it that the artist first formally met Basquiat when he was having lunch with Bruno Bischofberger. In his diary entry for Monday, October 4th, 1982, Warhol wrote: “Down to meet Bruno Bischofberger (cab $7.50). He brought Jean-Michel Basquiat with him. He’s the kid who used the name “Samo” when he used to sit on the sidewalk in Greenwich Village and paint T-shirts… then Bruno discovered him and now he’s on Easy Street. And so I had lunch for them, and then I took a Polaroid, and he went home, and within two hours a painting was back, still wet, of him and me together” (A. Warhol, quoted by P. Hackett, ed., The Andy Warhol Diaries, New York, 1989, p. 462).

People have speculated about whether Warhol was using Basquiat, or whether Basquiat was using Warhol. Basquiat defined a new genre of art and expression, and Warhol admired him for his ability to capture the essence of 1980s New York city street culture. Conversely, Basquiat admired Warhol for his status in the art world and the two became friends. It has been assumed that it was Warhol who had pestered Basquiat to allow him to paint him his portrait, but Fab 5 Freddy—a member of the downtown underground creative scene—has said that it was actually Basquiat who approached Warhol with the idea. The younger artist had admired Warhol’s Oxidation paintings from the 1970s, and loved of the idea of being immortalized in this way. Whatever the actual chain of events, the two formed an incomparable relationship that dominated the art world in New York in the 1980s. Fellow artist Ronnie Cutrone remembered, “It was like some crazy-art world marriage and they were the odd couple. The relationship was symbiotic. Jean-Michel thought he needed Andy's fame, and Andy thought he needed Jean-Michel's new blood. Jean Michel gave Andy a rebellious image again” (R. Cutrone quoted in Warhol: The Biography by Victor Bockris, Cambridge, 2003, pp.461-2). This unlikely pairing soon became a fixture on the New York art-world party circuit and was frequently pictured together on the cover of magazines, on television, in the paper. Basquiat became a member of Warhol’s entourage and was credited with renewing Warhol’s interest in painting on canvas, which had dwindled somewhat since its heyday in the 1960s.

“Down to meet Bruno Bischofberger (cab $7.50). He brought Jean-Michel Basquiat with him. He’s the kid who used the name “Samo” when he used to sit on the sidewalk in Greenwich Village and paint T-shirts…” (Andy Warhol quoted in The Andy Warhol Diaries)

The origins of Warhol’s Oxidation technique are said to date back to the early 1960s; there have long been stories of Warhol experimenting with this type of medium, although no actual painting have even been found. Unusual innovative materials and treatments however were long a part of Warhol’s oeuvre. From the gold leaf that he used in some his earliest fashion illustrations to the physical manipulation of the painted surface in some of his 1980s portraits, Warhol constantly sought out new, and often provocative ways of keeping his art relevant. His ultimate innovation? Arguably elevating the relatively pedestrian silkscreen technique to echelons of high art. The fact that the media used in the present work is so unusual should not detract from the power of the visual; it is a demonstration of the veracity of Warhol’s peripatetic imagination.

Screened on the abstract ground of an oxidation painting, Jean-Michel Basquiat is an exceedingly rare example of Warhol’s work, as his portraiture is normally straightforward in its figuration. These oxidation paintings are thought to be nods to his Abstract Expressionist predecessors and contemporaries, including Jackson Pollock, and are some of the artist’s only known abstract works. With this portrait, Warhol firmly captures a unique essence of his friend and fellow artist, while simultaneously announcing Basquiat’s admission into the shrine of glittering icons that helped to define the cultural landscape of the past fifty years.

In many ways Jean-Michel Basquiat is a unique collaboration between two of the most inimitable artists of the post-war period. A successful collaboration is always the result of a successful relationship and this painting is the physical proof of the harmony that existed beyond the canvas. Jean-Michel and Andy achieved a healthy balance. Jean-Michel respected Andy's philosophy and was in awe of his accomplishments and mastery of color and images. Andy was amazed by the ease with which Jean-Michel composed and constructed his paintings and was constantly surprised by the never-ending flow of new ideas. Each one inspired the other to outdo the next. The collaboration was seemingly effortless and it was a physical conversation happening in paint instead of words.

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