Lot 13
  • 13

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat

1,400,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
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  • Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • Sweet Pungent
  • acrylic, oilstick and silkscreen ink on canvas
  • 244.5 by 206.1 cm. 96 1/4 by 81 1/8 in.
  • Executed in 1984-85.


Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008


Lyon, 2éme Biennale d'Art Contemporain de Lyon, Et tous ils changent le Monde, September - October 1993

Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Warhol, Basquiat, Clemente - Obras en Colaboración, February - April 2002, p. 82, illustrated in colour 

London, Tate Modern; Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle; and Ottawa, The National Gallery of Canada, Pop Life: Art in a Material World, October 2009 - September 2010, p. 121, illustrated in colour (London); and p. 141, illustrated in colour (Hamburg)

Miami, Perez Art Museum, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks, August - October 2016


Exh. Cat., Kassel, Museum Fridericianum; Munich, Museum Villa Stuck; and Rivoli, Castello di Rivoli Museo d'arte Contemporanea, Collaborations: Warhol, Basquiat, Clemente, February 1996 - January 1997, p. 62, illustrated in colour 


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is deeper and richer in the original. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report.
"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

From the inimitable collection of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol’s collaborative work Sweet Pungent is a painting of great significance. In 1983, fortuitous circumstances enabled the inauguration of a unique and perhaps unlikely collaboration between the founding father of Pop art, Andy Warhol, and the art world’s latest Neo-Expressionist prodigy, Jean-Michel Basquiat. The original idea came from Swiss art dealer Bruno Bischofberger whose initial suggestion was to also incorporate Francesco Clemente in a tripartite endeavour. While the three artists worked together, it soon became clear that it would just be two artists continuing the collaboration: Warhol and Basquiat. By the spring of 1984, they had begun secretly working on their own collaborations. Created in 1984-85, Sweet Pungent offers a unique insight into one of the most important relationships within the history of contemporary art and evinces a perfect partnership between aesthetic pioneers from different generations. We encounter a playful selection of quotidian symbols whose mutual juxtaposition spark riveting semantic games. The historical significance of Sweet Pungent is enforced by its notable exhibition history, having been shown in the blockbuster exhibition Pop Life: Art in a Material World, which travelled from Tate Modern in London, to the Hamburger Kunsthalle and The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

Emerging as a revolutionary figure in the 1960s, Warhol had been at the heart of the art establishment for over twenty years by the time he met Basquiat. However, as noted by art historian Robert Pincus Witten, it seemed that “In the 70s, Warholism had superseded Warhol” as he received critical admonishment for a decade dominated by the portrait commissions (Robert Pincus-Witten, ‘Entries: Big History, Little History’, Arts Magazine, No. 54, April 1980, p. 184). Extremely concerned about his public reception, at the dawn of the 1980s, the artist was desperate to inaugurate “the Return of Andy Warhol” (Ibid.). Schooled by the graffiti of the streets rather than the academy, Basquiat and his fresh perspective offered the essential injection of life that Warhol was looking for to revive his career. For Basquiat, the well-connected Warhol plugged him into a network that helped cement his critical ascendancy. As fellow Pop artist Ronnie Cutrone recounted, "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" (Ronnie Cutrone cited in: Victor Bockris, Warhol: The Biography, Cambridge 2003, pp. 461-62). The late 1980s would thus become some of the most productive years of Warhol’s career, resulting in some of his greatest works such as the legendary series of Fright Wig self-portraits. As explained by Keith Haring, “Jean brought back a much-needed touch of mischief that had been disappearing from the Factory agenda. But, he also brought an atmosphere of obsessive production that left its mark long after the collaborations had stopped" (Keith Haring, ‘Painting the Third Mind’, 1988, in: Exh. Cat., Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum, Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, 2009, p. 205).

Sweet Pungent is a prime example of their symbiotic relationship. To create the present work, Warhol laid down the background and added his handmade graphic imagery, in this instance the General Electric logo. Basquiat recalled, "He would put something very concrete or recognisable, like a newspaper headline or a product logo, and then I would try and deface it, and then I would try and get him to work some more on it" (Jean-Michel Basquiat cited in: Exh. Cat., Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Basquiat, 2010, p. 47). In Sweet Pungent Basquiat responded and reacted, he modified by filling in parts of the canvas with childlike scrawls, he painted blocks of colour while the final addition of a central figure was executed in his signature style. With fists raised and a skull-like face, the character in the left hand corner conjures the quintessential figure in Basquiat’s work. Depicted with both of his hands thrust jubilantly in the air, this gesture is both evocative of the stance of a victorious boxer and also a doubling of the gloved fist of the Black Power Salute. Continuing to riff on Middle American mores and culture, Warhol illustrates the recognisable General Electic brand logo, a symbol of the American economy that Warhol repeats in some of his most celebrated collaborations with Basquiat. Mimicking the slick smooth lines of his infamous silkscreens, the GE logo is meticulously hand painted over Basquiat’s diagrammatic line drawings. It had been twenty years or thereabouts since Warhol had painted by hand, 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” (Keith Haring, op. cit., pp. 203-04). Representing the climactic moment of this extraordinary creative relationship, the quality of Sweet Pungent mirrors the quality and depth of friendship between these two iconic contemporary masters. The mechanics of a mutually beneficial creative rapport are laid bare as stylistic differences blend in harmonious synthesis, giving birth to an entirely new aesthetic language.