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Untitled
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Untitled
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Untitled

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NY, US
US

About the item

Created during a period of intense artistic development and discovery, Untitled is a work of immense power and commanding authority within Jean-Michel Basquiat’s corpus, radiating a brute strength and compelling the attention of the viewer. Dominated by one of the most significant recurring motifs within Basquiat’s oeuvre – the monumental male head – Untitled renders this subject with imperious force: the figure gazes out from the composition with an extraordinarily fierce intensity, actively demanding the attention of the onlooker. Painted alongside a group of works from the early 1980s in which the head serves as the central compositional locus, the depiction of the present work is imbued with a thrillingly raw intensity and a visceral physicality which sets it on par with some of Basquiat’s most celebrated representations of the masculine cranium, such as Untitled (Skull), 1981, and In This Case, 1983. Throughout Basquiat’s corpus, the single heroic figure stands as a key conceptual anchor; furthermore, as the focus of cerebral activity and marker of cultural identity, the head, in Basquiat’s output of large and occasionally threatening scarified faces, stands at the center of an aesthetic synthesis of biography with a wider racial and socio-cultural dialogue. Curator Fred Hoffman has stated that “Basquiat’s representation of a single enlarged head is a breakthrough.” (Fred Hoffman, "The Defining Years: Notes on Five Key Works" in Exh. Cat., New York, Brooklyn Museum, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 2005, p. 130) In its presentation of a crucial theme within the artist’s multi-faceted and highly symbolic oeuvre, Untitled thus arguably takes its place amongst some of the most important of Basquiat’s early works. With his black eye, missing teeth and apparent facial gashes, the central figure of Untitled recalls Basquiat’s fascination with, and perpetuation of, the legends surrounding black sporting heroes of the early to mid-Twentieth Century, in particular those of leading boxers such as Joe Lewis, Jack Johnson and Sugar Ray Robinson. Richard D. Marshall has posited the theory that Basquiat was particularly inspired by the seeming parallels between his own life and that of Sugar Ray Robinson: “It would have appealed to Basquiat that Robinson was equally successful in different weight categories, just as Basquiat had also evaded specific categorization in his art and in his life. Basquiat would also have identified with Robinson’s reputation for staying out all night at the Cotton Club in Harlem, for owning more than a thousand suits, and for touring Europe with a bevy of interracial beauties…” (Richard D. Marshall and Jean-Louis Prat, eds., Jean-Michel Basquiat, Vol. II, Paris, 1996, p. 24) The outlining of the head with elements of blue and red – reminiscent of the passage of veins within the body - references the influence of anatomical texts on Basquiat’s work, in particular that of Gray’s Anatomy. The book was given to him at the age of seven when he was recovering from being hit by a car in the street, and the artist frequently employed motifs within his paintings which were inspired by his earlier detailed absorption of the text and images.\nBy the time Untitled was painted in 1982, Basquiat had arguably already reached an apex of creative maturity, following on from his extraordinarily rapid development from graffiti artist to darling of the New York art scene. Subsequent to Basquiat's breakthrough participation in the legendary New York/New Wave exhibition at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre in 1981, 1982 was the year in which the artist attained the crucial support of respected gallery owner Annina Nosei. Using Nosei's Prince Street gallery basement as his studio, Basquiat held his first solo exhibition and forged influential links with Bruno Bischofberger and Larry Gagosian. Moreover, prestigiously asked to take part in the legendary Documenta in Kassel alongside Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol, Basquiat became the youngest artist ever privileged with an invitation to exhibit. Untitled was created during this highly significant period within Basquiat’s career, and, as such, superbly encapsulates the extraordinary dynamism and vitality of this astonishingly precocious and prodigiously gifted young artist.
US
NY, US
US

medium

Acrylic and oilstick on canvas mounted on wood supports

creator

Jean-Michel Basquiat

condition

This work is in excellent condition overall. There is some slight fraying at the corners where the canvas is stretched over the wood supports as is to be expected with the nature of the artist's method. Under ultraviolet light there are no apparent restorations. The painting is not framed. 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. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

60 1/2 x 60 1/2 in. 153.7 x 153.7 cm.

provenance

Acquired by the present owner from the artist

creator_nationality_dates

1960 - 1988


*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.


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