Lot 279
  • 279

Jean-Michel Basquiat

650,000 - 850,000 GBP
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  • Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • Pedestrian 2
  • signed, titled and dated 1984 on the reverse
  • acrylic and oilstick on canvas
  • 153 by 137cm.; 60 1/4 by 54in.


Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris
Sale: Sotheby's, London, Contemporary Art, 22 October, 2002, Lot 391


Frankfurt, Kunsthalle, Prospect 86, 1986
Paris, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Témoignage 1977-1988, 1998, p. 65, illustrated in colour


Beaux Arts Magazine, Paris 1996, p. 93, no. 145, illustrated in colour
Richard Marshall & Jean-Louis Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Vol. I, Paris 1996, p. 223, illustrated in colour
Kadokawa Bunko, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tokyo 1997, pp. 53-54, illustrated in colour
Enrico Navarra, et. al., Jean-Michel Basquiat, Vol. I, Paris & New York 2000, p. 223, illustrated in colour
Enrico Navarra, et. al., Jean-Michel Basquiat, Vol. II, Paris & New York 2000, p. 194, no. 8, illustrated in colour


Colours: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate although the overall tonality is much richer and more vibrant in the original work with the crimson red tending more to bright orange-red and the greens more to rich forest. The dark spot in the lower right corner of the catalogue illustration and the dark spot to the right of the figure's head are printing errors and are not found in the actual work. Condition: This work is in very good condition. There is very minor wear to all four corners as well as several frame-rubbing marks at intervals along all four extreme edges. There are two faint rub marks in the green paint beneath the centre of the top edge; a faint diagonal rub mark in the red paint above the bottom edge towards the right corner, and two further faint rub marks in the black paint at the base of the figure. There is a faint horizontal rub mark of approximately 10cm directly above the centre of the bottom edge. The artist's shoeprint is visible in the upper centre of the top right quadrant. There is no evidence of any retouching when examined under ultraviolet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

As with so many of Basquiat's most powerful works, the theme of this painting centres around the artist's attempts at self-examination within the context both of his own racial identity and the social environment in which he was raised. Depicted standing in front of the gate to his apartment block the artist situates himself firmly within the urban context, identifying his sense of himself alongside the endless buildings that were to provide the canvases for his early career. For an individual who saw himself so absolutely confined to the margins of society, the decaying infrastructure and tenement buildings of 1970's New York represented both social incarceration inherent in these ghettoes and the avenue whereby, via a spray-can, he could articulate his sense of injustice to a wider audience without the need to break into the gallery scene.

His ferocity of technique and the simplicity of this composition unite to empower Pedestrian 2 with a visceral quality, particularly through his leering, confrontational self-portrait. Unlike the primitivised self-portraits of Picasso and Matisse earlier in the century, Basquiat is not using the African mask as a palimpsest to cover his identity or to hide behind; his face is the mask, open and honest and raw. Basquiat's ability to deal with his own racial identity in this frank manner is accentuated by the development of his style on the streets. As arguably the first major art movement to derive from a totally urban setting, graffiti or 'street art' has its roots firmly placed within a mixed ethnicity American counter-culture and is thus a movement from where, as a black Hispano-American Basquiat represented the core rather than the margins. The tensions of the society around him are thus clearly and poignantly articulated both through his violent treatment of the canvas and the imposition of the stark figure over a blood-red and olive-green background. This boldness and the breath-taking immediacy of the image position Pedestrian 2 as one of Basquiat's most memorable images and provides further evidence of the artist's towering achievement within a field that still dominates the arena of contemporary art.