Jean-Michel Basquiat

In this early Untitled drawing, Basquiat depicts a sport which played a significant role in his artistic development, Basketball. At the age of 8, he was hit by a car while playing basketball in the street. His mother famously gave him a copy of Gray's Anatomy to read while he recovered from his severe internal injuries. Many of his early drawings would feature medical diagrams taken from the book, but Basquiat would also focus on black athletes and famous black figures in society.

Basketball in particular took on a broader societal meaning for the developing artist. Basquiat frequently featured black sport stars and singers in his paintings as he challenged racial injustice and commented on his urban surroundings. The two figures in this work, one scrawled in black and white, the other illuminated in fiery red and yellow, are symbolic of the division he felt between his reality as a young black man trying to make it in a predominantly white art world.

Basquiat was a prolific draughtsman and considered his works on paper a central part of his artistic output. His drawings and paintings referenced each other constantly, the figure in the present work shares a form with one of Basquiat’s key paintings of the year Untitled (Red Man).

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)
Oilstick on paper
34 x 22 in : 86.5 x 56.0 cm
Framed size
41 ¾ x 30 ¾ in : 106.3 x 78.0 cm
Artist’s studio, New York
Tom Warren, New York
Pat Hearn Gallery, New York
Donald Baechler, New York
Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York (Inventory number JB.6366)
Private Collection, Italy (acquired from the above in 1998)
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Sweden
Stockholm’s Auktionsverk, their sale, 6th December 2016, lot 145
Private Collection
This work is accompanied by written confirmation of provenance from Tony Shafrazi Gallery
Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Jean Michel Basquiat, New York, 1999
Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Jean Michel Basquiat, New York, 1999, p. 30 (illus.)
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