449
449
Jean-Michel Basquiat
UNTITLED
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449
Jean-Michel Basquiat
UNTITLED
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,300,0001,600,000
LOT SOLD. 1,500,000 USD
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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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New York

Jean-Michel Basquiat
1960 - 1988
UNTITLED
oilstick on paper
22 by 29 3/4 in. 55.9 by 75.6 cm.
Executed in 1982.
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This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Authentication Committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. 

Provenance

Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
Collection of John M. and Marion A. Shea, Palm Springs 
Christie's, New York, 19 November 1997, Lot 346
Galerie Lucien Durand, Paris
Cornette de Saint Cyr, Paris, 11 October 2003, Lot 115
Galerie Alain Le Gaillard, Paris
Private Collection, Lisbon
Sotheby's, New York, 11 May 2011, Lot 409
Private Collection, Mexico City
Private Collection, New York 
Acquired from the above by the present owner 

Catalogue Note

Electric in its talismanic immediacy, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 Untitled is a masterful example of the artist’s instinctive and revered abilities as a draughtsman. Over the course of the same year, Basquiat received his first solo exhibition with Annina Nosei in New York, followed by Larry Gagosian in Los Angeles, Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich, and an invitation to attend the international exhibition Documenta 7 in Kassel as the youngest artist of more than 176 to present his art. Typical of Basquiat’s works on paper, Untitled explodes with urgency in the repetitive mark-making, variance of color and the freneticism of its composition. Beyond the visual and poetic lyricism, there is remarkable evidence of Basquiat’s process and delicate balance of intuition and meticulous study. The warrior-like figure in Untitled stands tall with his hand raised; ready to launch arrows in frenzy, eyes wide open, teeth bared as his crown of thrones energetically glows golden yellow. The vibrant blood-red used for the central figure is carried throughout the composition via arrows as they shoot off towards the crown of thorn wearing eagles circling above the teepee over his shoulder. 

Untitled embodies the indomitable force of Basquiat’s creative insurgency, which, in a flourishing conflagration of word, color, and mark, sent shockwaves through downtown Manhattan in the early 1980s and inaugurated a radical return of figurative painting. Marc Mayer reflected on Basquiat’s oeuvre, describing the artist as, “an articulate, and prolific spokesman for youth: insatiably curious, tirelessly inventive, innocently self-deprecating because of youth’s inadequacies, jealously guarding his independence… His work is likely to remain for a long time as the modern picture of what is looks like to be brilliant, driven, and young” (Marc Mayer, “Basquiat in History,” in Exh. Cat., New York, Brooklyn Museum, Basquiat, 2005, p. 57). Basquiat’s graffiti alter-ego of the late 1970s, SAMO, is apparent in the various marks throughout the present work; most notably the three-pointed crown. As SAMO, Basquiat left his mark on the streets of New York City in the form of the three-pointed crown and the acquisitive ©. From the very beginning, the young artist was known for his unique blend of the conceptual and the visual, merging a diverse linguistic arsenal of works with enigmatic symbols and icons that have proven to be truly unforgettable.

Conjuring allusions to the graceful scrawls and scribbles of Cy Twombly – an artist for whom he held a deep admiration – the glimpses of Basquiat’s graphic forms invoke a sort of proto-handwriting: a primitive kind of expression that strives toward resolution and legibility but is suspended in a perpetual territory of formal symbolism, akin to our contemporary reading of pre-historic mark-making. Phoebe Hoban captures this notion saying that, “Basquiat’s work, like that of most of his peers, was based on appropriation… the images he appropriated whether they were from the Bible or a chemistry textbook – became part of his original vocabulary… Basquiat combined and recombined these idiosyncratic symbols throughout his career: the recursive references to anatomy, black culture, television and history are his personal hieroglyphics” (Phoebe Hoban, Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art, New York 1998, p. 332). The young artist sampled from everyday life, art history, and a variety of cultural and socio-political semiotics oftentimes separating and isolating signs and texts, each containing layered histories. This diverse lexicon served as both image and a chronicle of language itself, overheard and spoken, a voice which visualized the slogans and jargon of the moment. 

For Basquiat, drawing was the most immediate form of expression and the quickest artistic method in which he could translate his inner thoughts.  Basquiat recalls his street art past by incorporating a series of symbols found in Henry Dreyfuss’s Symbol Sourcebook, especially the “hobo signs” which travelling vagabonds would use to denote certain areas as safe or treacherous along the road. Several of the signs within the present work are carried throughout his meteoric practice and are repeated like incantations in his drawings and larger paintings. Basquiat’s presentation of the warrior-like figure displays the same pictorial sophistication seen in many of his best paintings. Untitled captures the artist’s place as the dominant force in the 1980s art world and is an extraordinary example of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s meteoric and all-too-brief career.

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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New York