Lot 1058
  • 1058

JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT | Logo

Estimate
24,000,000 - 38,000,000 HKD
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Description

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • Logo
  • acrylic, oilstick and silkscreen on canvas
  • 60 by 48 in. 152 by 122 cm.
signed and titled on the reverseExecuted in 1984

Provenance

Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
Galerie Beaubourg, Paris
Marciano Art Collection, USA
Christie's, New York, 19 November 1992, lot 445
Private Collection, New York
Private Collection, USA
Sotheby's, Paris, 7 December 2010, lot 11
Private Collection, New York
Opera Gallery, Hong Kong
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

France, Paris, Galerie Beaubourg, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Peintures 82-87, 9 January – 16 February 1988
USA, New York, Whitney Museum of Art, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 23 October 1992 – 14 February 1993, p. 191
USA, Coral Gables, Quintana Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 17 December 1996 - 21 February 1997, pp. 30-31, illustrated in colour
Austria, Vienna, Kunst Haus Wien, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 11 February – 2 May 1999, p. 72

Literature

Michel Enrici, Jean-Michel Basquiat, La Différence, Paris, 1989, p. 109, illustrated in colour
Richard D. Marshall and Jean-Louis Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat Vol. II, 1st Ed., Galerie Enrico Navarra, Paris, 1996, p. 90, no. 7, illustrated in colour
Richard D. Marshall and Jean-Louis Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat Vol. II, 2nd Ed., Galerie Enrico Navarra, Paris, 1996, p. 122, no. 7, illustrated in colour
Richard D. Marshall and Jean-Louis Prat, Jean-Michel Basquiat Vol. II, 3rd Ed., Galerie Enrico Navarra, Paris, 2000, p. 191, no. 4, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

He could assimilate and digest an incredible amount of imagery, an incredible amount of information – words and pictures. He was able to take those things and synthesize them on canvas, on paper, with his own personal twist and vision that related to an entire history of contemporary art, yet that spoke directly and immediately to the times we were living in.

Fred Braithwaite




Characterized by many of the artist’s most iconic symbols, and executed in his instantly recognizable visual language, Logo from 1984 is a powerful example of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s inimitable oeuvre. With its striking palette, compositional intensity, expressionistic force, and deft engagement with art history, politics, and race, this work is demonstrative of the very best of Basquiat’s celebrated practice. Some of his most famous signatures are here: the three-pointed crown, the skull with self-styled dreadlocks, and the anatomical references are all visible. While it resists a facile interpretation, this cluster of motifs provides further insight into Basquiat’s working method; this is not an illustrative self-portrait, providing a simple likeness, but rather an intricate reflection on the artist’s dearest inspirations and concerns – a glimpse at his inner cogitation rather than his exterior appearance.

In its cogent synthesis of divergent influences, Logo testifies to the virtuosic ability with which Basquiat navigated between disparate aesthetic influences to forge a uniquely potent artistic vernacular. Deeply influenced by the style of juxtaposition and improvisation established by the musicians, artists and writers associated with the Beat Generation, Basquiat frequently referenced such icons as Charlie Parker, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Jackson Pollock in his work. Their use of syncopation, stream-of-consciousness, and extemporization inspired Basquiat to embrace an incredibly wide variety of sources all at once. Never short on stimulation, he absorbed words and images from street culture, autobiographical references, commercial advertising, canonical art history, and mysticism equally, and developed a complex and personal system of symbols and iconography. Anything he could see, read, digest, and interpret, from word configurations and hieroglyphics to metascience and theology, fascinated Basquiat and fed his enormous hunger to absorb everything from both West and East. Logo is thus a prime example of this signature style. In this masterwork, he showcases his unique ability to synthesize a myriad of symbols and allusions from seemingly disparate ideologies and backgrounds into a single, cohesive narrative. Many components of Logo come from recurring images in Basquiat’s oeuvre, including the eponymous “logo” of the present work. The central motif of the present work is shared by other paintings including Campaign and Water-Worshipper, both from 1984. Here, Basquiat appropriates and transforms the logo of a popular cigarette brand, Player’s Navy Cut, into a direct confrontation of African American history. The actual design featured a blonde, bearded sailor named “Hero,” encircled by a heraldic lifebuoy and flanked by two naval ships. In Basquiat’s interpretation the sailor is replaced by a black figure, shown in unmistakably tribal dress, with necklaces and piercings, mounted on a pedestal and surrounded by a ring emblazoned with the word “TOBACCO.” This African figure is thus objectified as a trophy – an ornamental prize to be carried back to the European ships that float behind him. The obvious implications of slavery and forced hard labor on a tobacco plantation, together with the “logo” and “TRADEMARK” associations, create an exacting indictment of the commercialization of the black body throughout the centuries.

The other iconographic sources visible in Logo come from various drawings made by Basquiat, as he often Xeroxed his works on paper and reused the images in other ways. By integrating them into his paintings, he engages even more deeply with his repertoire. For instance, repeatedly featured are “SILVER” and images of coins, which the artist often used as signifiers of trade, commerce, and monetary manipulation – in combination with the titular logo, these images further emphasize the central themes of race and commercialization. Even the reproduction of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, taken from a 1983 work in which her likeness dominates the effigy of a banknote, is linked to the monetary motif that Basquiat here explores. Also prominently included are several iterations of Basquiat’s characteristic “self-portrait,” the head or skull, with wide eyes and bared teeth, crested with his signature spiked dreadlocks. Their presence in this work indicates the lineage or link the artist is creating between himself and the African figure, perhaps as a reflection on his newfound fame and wealth within the predominately white art market of the 1980s.

The individual elements of the present work can be read separately, as miniature motifs, introducing themes of racism, art history, and expressionistic gestural power to the canvas, as well as conveying a distinct sense of the artist’s own voice. In combining them so freely, Basquiat allows several linear histories to coalesce and his composition becomes a maelstrom of association; each theme plays off another to create a pervasive and complex mood of contemplation. In scale and ambition, the work is almost a reinterpretation of the traditional history painting. While it does not adhere to a simple narrative, the combination of self-portraiture, allegory, and an extraordinary level of visual interest, creates a compelling sense of poetic message, born out across a limitless composition. The present work stands as testament to Basquiat’s unparalleled ability to fill his work with unbridled power. Through its composition, he created an arresting meditation on African American culture, galvanized by his own experiences, and executed in his inimitable style.

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