Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Alchemy’, 1985, Phillips
Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Alchemy’, 1985, Phillips

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

From the Catalogue:
Throughout his short but prolific career, Jean‐Michel Basquiat produced a selection of works on paper which celebrate the materialistic qualities of the medium, often rivaling his works on canvas with their energy and dynamism. At ease when working on paper, the looseness of sketching in oil stick on paper permitted the acclaimed artist to work at any time and almost anywhere, without the necessity of installation or construction, freeing him from the confines of a studio. Working on the floor or spread over a table, hotel room desk or car seat, Basquiat’s drawings, as evident in the present work Alchemy, are focused, immediate and raw, often completed uninterrupted, unlike his more substantial works on canvas or wooden support. The spontaneous genius of these small, intimate sketches allow us an insightful glimpse into the mind of the one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

In May 1968, a young Basquiat was involved in a car accident that left him with a broken arm and severe internal injuries. Following the removal of his spleen, Basquiat spent a month recovering in King’s County Hospital and whilst there, the young artist’s mother gave him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, a text that had a profound influence on his visual lexicon. In accompaniment to his own personal experience of trauma and transformation, his accident and recovery undoubtedly fuelled a fascination with the interior of the human body and the duality of the interior and exterior physicality that defines us. Furthermore, the influence of the work of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings, which were contained in a collection of books lent to the artist by his associate Fred Hoffman at the height of his career, can also be identified in the present work. ‘Leonardo’s seemingly compulsive investigation of human anatomy and physiology would become a lifelong passion for Basquiat’ (Fred Hoffman, in ‘VIII – From Leonardo’, Jean‐Michel Basquiat: Drawings: Work from the Schorr Family Collection, exh. cat., Acquavella Gallery, New York, 2014, p. 124). The delicate, linear form recalls da Vinci’s pursuit of discovering and representing the mysteries of the human body on paper. The bold composition and expressive central form in Alchemy, on the one hand draws upon Basquiat’s visual syntax of street art, graffiti and hobo signs, channelling the dynamism and rhythm of downtown New York, but also invokes an almost childlike innocence with a great underlying sense of personal suffering, imbued with cultural, scientific and art historical richness.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated 'Basquiat '85' on the reverse

Beverly Hills, Gagosian Gallery, Jean-Michel Basquiat - Paintings and Drawings 1980-1988, 12 February - 14 March 1998, pl. 19 (illustrated)
Klagenfurt, Stadtgalerie Klagenfurt, Jean-Michel Basquiat - Works on Paper, 18 June – 26 September 1999, p. 18 (illustrated)

Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
Stephen Lacey Gallery, London
Private Collection, London (acquired from the above in April 2000)

About Jean-Michel Basquiat

A poet, musician, and graffiti prodigy in late-1970s New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat had honed his signature painting style of obsessive scribbling, elusive symbols and diagrams, and mask-and-skull imagery by the time he was 20. “I don’t think about art while I work,” he once said. “I think about life.” Basquiat drew his subjects from his own Caribbean heritage—his father was Haitian and his mother of Puerto Rican descent—and a convergence of African-American, African, and Aztec cultural histories with Classical themes and contemporary heroes like athletes and musicians. Often associated with Neo-expressionism, Basquiat received massive acclaim in only a few short years, showing alongside artists like Julian Schnabel, David Salle, and Francesco Clemente. In 1983, he met Andy Warhol, who would come to be a mentor and idol. The two collaborated on a series of paintings before Warhol’s death in 1987, followed by Basquiat’s own untimely passing a year later.

American, 1960-1988, New York, New York, based in New York, New York