Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life and career took a quick turn in November 1982 when he left his first art dealer Annina Nosei and the plush studio space in his gallery’s basement in favor of a solo exhibition. at the spunky FUN Gallery, which broke out of the East Village punk scene. He was on the cusp of stardom, coveted by powerful art-world brokers Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich and Larry Gagosian in Los Angeles.
The work he created that year is arguably his finest, exploding with a youthful exuberance, a reckless abandon that is now recognized as unparalleled mastery.
An overflowing crowd poured into the FUN Gallery, where Portrait of the artist as a young wreckthree joined panels which serve both as a self-portrait and as an altarpiece, and See Board 3a sculpture in acrylic, oil and oil on canvas and wood construction, both executed in 1982, was exhibited to the public.
The works were brought together in an exhibition today at Christie’s New York ahead of the 21st Century Evening Sale on May 10. It’s worth the trip to see them for free at Rockefeller Center, paired up in their own space, as this may be the last time they are shown together in public. The monumental triptych and the sculpture are expected to bring in $30 million and $4 million to $6 million, respectively.
“Those are two incredibly rare things to see. They’ve been part of the same collection for decades,” said Ana Maria Celis, Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist and Head of 21st Century Evening Sale, during a press preview this morning. “The painting was purchased in 1985 and has remained in the same collection ever since. This piece in particular has been referenced extensively in all of Basquiat’s great books, as it is truly a very important early work by Basquiat. It was made in 1982 and presented for the first time at the FUN Gallery.
Portrait of the artist as a young wreck, created in Basquiat’s Crosby Street studio, incorporates its triangular crowns, anatomical studies and provocative text, magnified by gestural brushstrokes. The acrylic, oil, grease pencil, and hardware on the hinged wood construction has been a highlight of major retrospectives, including the Brooklyn Museum (2005-2006), the Beyeler Foundation, and the Museum of Art. Modern Art of the City of Paris (2010-2011), and Fondation Louis Vuitton (2018-2019). It is on sale for the first time, having been owned by Galerie Mostini in Paris since 1995.
Basquiat’s friend Keith Haring acquired See Board 3 de Basquiat, and it was sold to the Syrian-Israeli billionaire and art collector before being acquired by Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont in Paris in 1999. The handmade canvas box supported on a constructed wooden podium was prominently in the apartment Haring shared with his partner, DJ Juan Dubose.
The sculpture emphasizes the theme of abandonment, emblazoned with cheeky, flippant phrases: ‘HEAD OF A FRYER” a sketch of the skelly New York children’s street game, ‘HICE[ST]TREX”, which in Latin means “Here is the king”, and a Roman belt buckle repeated in the triptych. “PODIUM” is scribbled on the base, along with “SARCGPUGUS OF A PHYSICIAN”, along with a repeat of “HICE [ST] REX. »
Seen together, the triptych and sculpture confuse, amuse and amaze, illustrating Basquiat’s enduring legacy and appeal.
“What I love about it is that they both really show the pun,” Celis said.