Lot 61
  • 61

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat

Estimate
2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • PE D G, Two Heads
  • signed by both artists on the overlap
  • oil, acrylic, oilstick and silkscreen on canvas
  • 76 x 98 in. 193 x 248.9 cm.
  • Executed circa 1984-5, this work is stamped by The Estate of Andy Warhol and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts on the overlap and numbered PA99.016 on the stretcher.

Provenance

The Estate of Andy Warhol
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above)
Sotheby's, New York, November 10, 2004, Lot 273
Gallery Sho, Tokyo
Private Collection, Tokyo

Exhibited

New York, Gagosian Gallery, Andy Warhol/Jean-Michel Basquiat: Collaborations, March - April 1997
Beverly Hills, Gagosian Gallery, Andy Warhol/Jean-Michel Basquiat: Collaboration Paintings, May - June 2002, n.p., illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

In 1984 and 1985 Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat continued a symbiotic collaboration that would become the stuff of legend. The original idea came from Swiss dealer Bruno Bischofberger whose initial suggestion was to also incorporate Francesco Clemente within a multi-artist endeavor. However, it was when Warhol and Basquiat continued painting together after the making of the triumvirate works that the true fruit was borne. PE D G, Two Heads is both a superb example of this phase of joint working and a perfect summation of their respective aesthetics. Basquiat had obsessively revered Warhol in the years prior to the commencement of their working together whilst a sometime–jaded Warhol was energized and stimulated by the younger man’s infectious charisma and sheer drive to commit visual language to any surface.

Several of the most direct and intense works from this period of output were based on headlines from The New York Post, of which PE D G, Two Heads is a most striking example. Emblazoned with the essential leitmotifs of each artist’s respective individual oeuvres, the work is both a distillation, and more pertinently, a crystallization of two distinct attitudes made, or maybe even forced, to cohere with verve and surety. It is reasonable to infer that the original newspaper text appropriated for the work caught Warhol’s eye precisely because of its sensationalist content or tone. However, given that the original message has been lost to pictorial composition only individual letters remain, jarringly separated and stripped of their meaning. In a purely visual context, it is this that matters the most since the visual resonance of the letters themselves is all that we are left with – the bold monochrome in which they are rendered being among the most classic of all Warholian tropes. From the stark clarity of the very first advertisement paintings of 1960 and 1961, through the headline and dance-step paintings of 1962, and continuing all the way through his life until the very last advertising paintings of 1986, few things speak of Warhol’s economical directness as black and white letters writ large on the canvas.

Basquiat’s contribution was two-fold. Firstly, the enthusiasm he epitomized for incorrigible mark-making was sufficient to prompt Warhol to once again pick up a brush. It had been twenty years or thereabouts since Warhol had painted himself, choosing for these collaborations to compete with the young pretender and eschew the indolent comfort of the silkscreen. Thereafter, a jousting unfolds played out, mark by mark, on the surface. As Keith Haring wrote in his insightful essay of 1988, Painting The Third Mind: “For an artist, the most important and delicate relationship he can have with another artist is one in which he is constantly challenged and intimidated. This is probably the only productive quality of jealousy. The greatest pleasure is to be provoked to the point of inspiration...Painting with Jean-Michel was not easy. You had to forget any preconceived ideas of ownership and be prepared to have anything you’d done completely painted over within seconds...Andy loved the energy with which Jean would totally eradicate one image and enhance another...Layers and layers of images and ideas would build toward a concise climax.” (Exh. Cat., Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum (and travelling), Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, 2009, pp. 203-204)

That concise climax is arrived via Basquiat’s further contribution. Warhol’s headline, through Basquiat’s mischievous intervention, is transformed into elliptical prose. Letters, bereft of meaning and emptied of content through painterly obfuscation, assume instead the syncopated rhythm of a different kind of composition, analogous perhaps to the great jazz works of the masters so beloved by Basquiat. When conventional reading is denied only a staccato rhythm remains, created by the harsh dissonance of the remaining consonants. Moreover, it is surely no coincidence that the superb mask-like heads painted by Basquiat in this example bear the closest resemblance to those heads painted contemporaneously in his individual works celebrating the storied Griot and Zydeco protagonists of the African diaspora, the ghostly heroes that populated Basquiat’s cultural history narrative and most reflected his own interests and personality. The work speaks eloquently of a true convergence, whereby Warhol’s tendency toward succinct and iconic starkness is synthesized with Basquiat’s zealous painterly expression- two diverging visual languages made one, and whole, within an individual work of tremendous potency.

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