Lot 22
  • 22


1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
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  • Jean-Michel Basquiat
  • Untitled
  • signed and dated 1982 on the reverse
  • oilstick on paper
  • 20 1/8 by 16 1/8 in. 51.1 by 41 cm.


Private Collection, New York (acquired from the artist)
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above)
Sotheby's, New York, February 27, 1990, Lot 256 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection, Paris (acquired from the above)
Private Collection
Sotheby's New York, November 18, 1998, Lot 176 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above)
Private Collection, Greenwich, Connecticut
Floyd Contemporary, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Catalogue Note

Vibrantly and densely-layered, Untitled from 1982 is a masterful example of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s instinctive and lauded abilities as one of the greatest draughtsman of the Twentieth Century. Typical of his works on paper, the frenetic urgency of the mark-making, the unique variance in color, and the iconic motif of the central head are all effortlessly combined into a singularly sizzling composition that exemplifies Basquiat’s effortless creative genius. Intricately impastoed layers of oilstick in a kaleidoscope of color are scrawled upon the surface of Untitled, culminating in the central development of the human head, a self-referential idiom that recurs throughout the artist’s body of work. With an exceptional level of completeness, the corporal density of the central figure in Untitled is undeniably mesmerizing, its presence intensified by the artist’s frenzied application of oilsticks -  black, orange, green, red and blue markings burst with expressionistic fervor. A complex labyrinth of words, symbols and images surround the central figure crowned by a halo of thorns and filling the composition with his arm outstretched in a warrior-like gesture. The present work evidences the artist’s astute observation of psycho-spiritual states of being: “What drew Basquiat almost obsessively to the depiction of the human head was his fascination with the face as a passageway from exterior physical presence into the hidden realities of man’s psychological and mental realms…the individualized expression and articulated emotive content evidence Basquiat’s fascination with our psychological as well as spiritual disposition.” (Fred Hoffmann, Exh. Cat., New York, Acquavella Galleries, Jean-Michel Basquiat Drawing: Works from the Schorr Family Collection, p. 74) The explosive mark-making and scrawls across the surface of Untitled are fueled by the fierce artistic drive which propelled Basquiat’s meteoric rise to unprecedented success during his breakout year. Executed in 1982, the present work was initiated in this critical year of international and domestic acclaim: Basquiat had his first solo exhibitions with Larry Gagosian in Los Angeles, Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich, as well as galleries in New York and Rotterdam, and locally, the downtown Manhattan gallerist Annina Nosei became his primary dealer after inviting him to participate in a group show of socio-political art in September 1981. Created at the age of only twenty-two, Untitled is replete of Basquiat’s fully matured aesthetic vocabulary with the signature motif of the head, three-pointed crown, and the densely worked surface of oilstick incisions that create positively and negatively worked dimensions. The searing stokes in the present work epitomize the unbridled talent of Basquiat and his confidence within the medium of drawing, in which he flawlessly illustrated without editing: “With the exception of Picasso, few acclaimed painters of the Twentieth Century invested the same time or energy to works on paper that is evidence in their painting. The search for pictorial solutions would have been fought out in front of the canvas. Yes, Twentieth Century painters drew and made masterful works in this medium, but drawing was always a secondary concern. For Basquiat, in contrast, there is often less of a distinction, in terms of intent, between working on paper and on canvas.” (Ibid., p. 33)

Untitled is not only an exquisite creation by a master draughtsman, it is an explicit reference to Basquiat’s idiom of the warrior figure that embodies the young artist’s fierce ascent to the heights of critical and commercial acclaim in 1982. From being born to Puerto Rican and Haitian parents and raised in Brooklyn, to international renown and public admiration for Basquiat’s undeniable talent and unique visual vocabulary, Untitled is at its essence, the artist fighting to overcome all odds to forge a meta-narrative of a successful black painter in Western art history.


Executed in 1982, this work is accompanied by a copy of the original certificate of authenticity issued by the authentication committee of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.