Lot 188
  • 188


350,000 - 450,000 GBP
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  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Andy Warhol
  • Origin of Cotton
  • signed by all three artists and dated 1984 on the overlap
  • oil, acrylic, silkscreen ink and masking tape on canvas
  • 128 by 180.4 cm. 50 3/8 by 71 in.


Galerie Bischofberger, Zürich
Private Collection, Switzerland
Sotheby's, London, 5 February 2004, Lot 54
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Wisconsin, Milwaukee Art Museum; Texas, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; New York, Brooklyn Museum; and Baltimore, Baltimore Museum of Art, Andy Warhol, The Last Decade, September 2009 - January 2011, pp. 136-7, no. 37, illustrated in colour
Bonn, Art and Exhibition Hall, Ménage à trois: Warhol, Basquiat, Clemente, February - May 2012, p. 80, no. 147, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly lighter and brighter in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Very close inspection reveals a few tiny media accretions in isolated places throughout and some minute spots of wear to all four extreme corner tips. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet 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

Despite wildly distinct stylistic differences, Origin of Cotton evinces a dynamic and vibrant culmination of three of the most revolutionary minds in Contemporary art. A densely packed and vivacious collaboration, the present work offers a wealth of visual information, with Warhol’s iconic silkscreened flower emanating from the centre of the canvas, erased and effaced by Basquiat’s trademark phrase Origin of Cotton and joined by a host of startled nightmarish faces in Clemente’s idiosyncratic haunting style. Wholly representative of all three artists, across its vast and vibrant surface, Origin of Cotton recalls a fleeting moment when a trio of creative geniuses came together in a harmonious marriage to create a truly remarkable and unique piece of art. Belonging to a series of fifteen astounding works, Origin of Cotton came into fruition upon the encouragement of Swiss Art dealer Bruno Bischofberger, who represented all three artists. Bischofberger believed that the outcome of labours from these colossally dissimilar artists would represent the climactic moment of an extraordinary creative relationship like no one had seen at the time. In the year that followed, Warhol and Basquiat moved to collaborating between themselves and subsequently over one hundred additional works materialised. When Basquiat, Warhol and Clemente began their collaborative paintings in 1983, three very different artists collided, each with their own very distinctive profiles, interests and motifs. Each of the artists began with four paintings and a drawing that were then swapped between the artists, passed from studio to studio in a contemporary variant of Surrealism’s exquisite corpse. They would then all add or modify the canvas, almost to the point of erasing it. In the present work, Warhol added his silk screened flower motif in homage to his Flowers series of 1964. In this paradigmatic series he used photos of hibiscus blossoms from the magazine Modern Photography as his inspiration. The intricate process resulted in the works becoming so reduced and radicalised, that the subject matter was transformed into a powerful pictorial concept that could be interpreted in multiple ways, almost evolving into an abstract painting. Clemente conceptualises the idea of fluidity and fracture within his works where he travels between the two worlds of Eastern Symbolism and Western cultural tradition. He describes his efforts as “born out of a proliferation of designs” (Danilo Eccher, Clemente, Turin 1999, p. 114). He adds that “some painters add and others subtract. I belong to the family of those who subtract. I do not add colour, I subtract, I wash the colours. I do not build, I unveil” (Ibid., p. 163). Within Origin of Cotton, Clemente amasses a cluster of human faces influenced by the traditional art and culture of India that had engulfed his previous travel and work. Basquiat's art has a large perspective on issues such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. His work using the slogan 'Origin of Cotton', which he graffitied over the exterior walls around New York City, refers to his emotional struggle with the slave trade and racism as well as giving an insight into Basquiat’s constant battle with his identity as an African American and the burden of his ancestral history. It could be said for Origin of Cotton, that the faces painted by Clemente represent the multitude of slaves that crossed over the Atlantic coming to America and Warhol’s screen printed yellow flower, which is reminiscent of the cotton crop, harmonises this work into an expression of powerful poetic racial thought.

Due to the highly distinct signatures of each of the three artists, the respective artistic contributions can clearly be distinguished from one another. In this regard a respectful approach was mutually agreed, all maintaining their ‘own hand’. Keith Haring wonderfully described the affiliation between their working styles as “a kind of physical conversation happening in paint instead of words” (David Grob cited in: Exh. Cat. London, The Mayor Rowan Gallery, Collaborations: Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1988, n.p.) Origin of Cotton is a stunning and ingenious example of one of the first high profile artist collaborations that has since come to inspire a whole new generation of collaborative artists.