Search for over 80 million sold items in our price database

Man Struck by Lightning--2 Witnesses
Sold

About the item

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)\nMan Struck by Lightning--2 Witnesses\nsigned, titled, and dated '"MAN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING-2 WITNESSES" Jean-Michel Basquiat 1982' (on the reverse)\nacrylic and oilstick on canvas with wooden supports\n72 x 72 in. (182.8 x 182.8 cm.)\nPainted in 1982.
US
NY, US
US

notes

Jean-Michel Basquiat's Man Struck by Lightning--2 Witnesses is a scene of comic calamity strewn with the young artist's complex and richly symbolic visual vocabulary. It is a painting that deftly captures an essential childlike freshness and directness of expression, while its fractured imagery draws on a confluence of ideas and influences including graffiti, pop culture cartoons, art historical models and autobiography. The composition was painted in 1982, the year that Basquiat arrived on the international art stage as the new, enigmatic and much-talked-about wunderkind of New York contemporary art. Forming the apex of the artist's all-too-brief career, this was a time when Basquiat-- energized, enthusiastic and hungry for success--was rapidly creating the body of work by which much of his career would later be judged. Only a year before, the twenty-one-year-old painter had been living an itinerant lifestyle, drifting between random addresses in Downtown New York, playing for the band Gray at the Mudd Club and working as a street artist under the tag of SAMO. The making of this picture coincides with the period in which the artist's transformation from SAMO into 'Jean-Michel Basquiat art star' was made complete. Having secured the support of several ambitious art dealers and a studio in which to work, Basquiat began to produce some of the most vital paintings of his entire oeuvre.

Man Struck by Lightning--2 Witnesses is filled with the energy of graffiti, with the sense of spontaneity and rebellion, and this is highlighted by the detritus-like appearance of the wooden support that pierces through the corners like bone through skin. It was in 1982 that Basquiat would introduce such idiosyncratic canvas stretchers for the first time, transforming his paintings from two dimensional surfaces into haptic three dimensional objects. Bored of the pre-prepared canvases supplied by his dealers, Basquiat instructed his assistant Steve Torton to make frames from whatever he could find in the studio and dumpsters nearby. The resulting exposed crossbars and twine lashing forms an integral part of the work, reflecting the everyday life and debris of the then derelict streets of New York's East Village. This new method of construction won instant fans and rave reviews. 'For a while it looked as if the early stuff was primo, but no longer,' wrote Rene Ricard. 'He's finally figured out a way to make a stretcher...that is so consistent with the imagery...they do look like signs, but signs for a product modern civilization has no use for' (R. Ricard, "The Pledge of Allegiance," Artforum, vol. XXI, no. 3, November 1982, p. 48).

From the outset of his creative practice, Basquiat made it his mission to attack the standards and expectations of the dry, alienating intellectualism and precious exclusivity of an art world dominated by a Minimalist-Conceptual aesthetic. His raw, instinctive style re-energized the eighties art scene, as did his powerfully loaded symbols, ciphers and figurative images, which fused autobiography and social outcry with radically simplified, expressive form. Scrawled in vibrantly colored oil stick over an army green painted ground, Man Struck by Lightning--2 Witnesses assembles a variety of eclectic iconography in Basquiat's uniquely swift and free-flowing style. It throbs with a network of impulses that jarringly fuses figurative imagery and disjunctive words with the artist's characteristically chaotic and arcane magic. As the title implies, the painting's central conceit lies in the representation of a cataclysmic moment where the protagonist of the composition is hit by a bolt from heaven while two others look on. The centre figure appears to be deliberately placed by the lower edge of the canvas as if grounded by the force of the electric current, his body filled in with an orange/yellow pigment that spills out from his contours and surrounds him in a block of radiant light.

With arms upraised, this distorted figure echoes several other important paintings from 1982, most notably the epically scaled Profit I and the Untitled painting known as Baptism, which both feature figures in open supplication. However, whereas these paintings represent a ritualistic act of purification or saintly ascendancy, this contorted individual is not undergoing a transcendent rite of passage. His arms are instead outstretched in screaming torment; he is a sacrificial figure dying a painful death under the watchful eyes of witnesses who choose not to intervene. His posture therefore indicates a destiny of Christ-like of martyrdom.

From the anonymous warrior-saints to those athletes and musicians whose lives often ended tragically under the yoke of white oppression, Basquiat's art is dominated by self-identifying male figures. His highly individualistic way of painting is also pervaded with the sense that he was talking to himself through his work, exorcising demons, exposing uncomfortable truths and trying to explain the way of things--an effort that became increasingly pronounced at this time. Man Struck by Lightning--2 Witnesses can therefore be viewed as a powerful and revealing window onto the chaotic energy and pulse of Basquiat's life during a period of frantic growth and dramatic change. In this light, the painting appears to convey something of the electric jolt experienced by the artist in his meteoric rise to fame, its demonic looking hero trapped in the simultaneous agony and ecstasy of the moment.

The frenetic, overall composition of this work permits no suggestion of depth. The disembodied heads of the goggle-eyed 'witnesses' float in space surrounded by a fury of gestural marks and graphic emblems that manage to create movement and narrative while visually approximating the disjointed path of the human thought process. This break-beat bricolage of imagery reflects a number of Basquiat's aesthetic preoccupations. Just as he moved with dexterity between different social and cultural scenes, Basquiat was adept at negotiating a plethora of different influences in his art. The firebolts and onomatopoetic text of Man Struck by Lightning--2 Witnesses plainly displays the pictorial conventions of cartoon violence. There is also a liberal quotation of African sculpture in the brutal, mask-like heads of the figures. In addition, Jean Dubuffet and Cy Twombly fueled and legitimized Basquiat's graffiti-inspired sensibility while the self-conscious primitivism of Pablo Picasso unlocked the young artist's inclination for his own boldly naive forms. In the same manner that he had enlisted famous African-Americans as his mentors in life, Basquiat accumulated a list of artists who provided a range of visual idioms from which to forge his own style. However, rather than sycophantic emulation, Basquiat created his own trademark: in works such as Man Struck by Lightning--2 Witnesses, he displays the remarkable juxtaposition of control and spontaneity, menace and wit that became his own characteristic contribution to the cannon.

title

Man Struck by Lightning--2 Witnesses

medium

Acrylic and oilstick on canvas with wooden supports

notice

Please note that Christie's guarantee of this lot has been fully financed by a third party who is bidding on this lot. The third party, who may or may not have knowledge of the reserves, will receive a financing fee from Christie's, whether or not they are the successful bidder.

Please note the correct provenance for the present lot:

Annina Nosei Gallery, New York

Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 8 October 1988, lot 251

Private collection, Japan

Barbara Annis Fine Art, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner

signed

Signed, titled, and dated '"MAN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING-2 WITNESSES" Jean-Michel Basquiat 1982' (on the reverse)

creator

Jean-Michel Basquiat

keywords

Jean-Michel Basquiat , 20th Century, Paintings, United States of America, Contemporary

exhibited

New York, Annina Nosei Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat, March-April 1982.

department

POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART

dimensions

72 x 72 in. (182.8 x 182.8 cm.)

literature

Galerie Enrico Navarra, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Peintures, sculptures, oeuvres sur papier et dessins, Paris, 1989, p. 17 (illustrated in color).

M. Enrici, J. M. Basquiat, Paris, 1989, p. 63 (illustrated in color).

R. Marshall and J. L. Prat, eds., Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris, 1996, p. 127 (vol. I, illustrated); pp. 102-103 and 123 (vol. II, illustrated in color).

Galerie Enrico Navarra, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paris, 2000, pp. 140-141 (vol. I, illustrated in color); p. 129 (vol. II, illustrated in color).

provenance

Annina Nosei Gallery, New York

Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 8 October 1988, lot 251

Private collection, Japan

Gagosian Gallery, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


Advert
Advert

Sold items

Three Studies of George Dyer
Sold

Three Studies of George Dyer

Realized Price
38,614,000 USD

Portrait of a man with arms akimbo
Sold

Portrait of a man with arms akimbo

Realized Price
33,210,855 USD

Mao
Sold

Mao

Realized Price
32,404,500 USD

1947-Y-No. 2
Sold

1947-Y-No. 2

Realized Price
31,442,500 USD

Pre-War Pageant
Withdrawn

Pre-War Pageant

Realized Price
27,395,000 USD

Abstraktes Bild (809-2)
Sold

Abstraktes Bild (809-2)

Realized Price
22,087,500 USD

Composition avec grille 2
Sold

Composition avec grille 2

Realized Price
18,433,280 USD

Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face)
Sold

Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face)

Realized Price
14,808,436 USD