A self-portrait by Jean-Michel Basquiat is going under the hammer at Christie’s London next month, after 25 years in the private collection of U2 bassist Adam Clayton.
The musician bought the work shortly after the band’s arrival in New York in 1990, when they were preparing to record their seventh studio album Achtung Baby.
“There was a group of them,” Clayton said in a statement. “There was Basquiat, there was Haring, and obviously Warhol was the granddaddy of the whole movement. The idea that these young painters without any gallery experience could make their mark on the streets of New York—could go to the hippest night clubs, could mix with musical culture, was very exciting to me. It was where I came from—I always thought music and art went hand in hand together.”
Estimated to sell for between £1 million—£1.5 million ($1.2 million—$1.8 million) at the Post-War and Contemporary Art evening auction on March 7, the large-scale drawing is rendered in Basquiat’s trademark visual language inspired by cave drawings, street art, and the philosophies of Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci.
In Untitled (1982), Basquiat depicted the artist as a frail stick figure, with a tear in his eye. The work reflects the artist’s psyche at a time when his career was taking off and he was struggling to rationalize the dichotomy between art world fame and being a black man in 1980s America.
According to Francis Outred, chairman and head of post-war and contemporary art EMERI, “Unlike other self-portraits by Basquiat it articulates his fragility as a figure who is coming to terms with his new position in the world and injects the deepest pathos into the narrative of his dramatic trajectory from anonymous graffiti artist to international art superstar.”
Unlike the imagery of self-glorification that permeated portraiture in the 1980s, Basquiat’s rendition of himself reveals the artist’s vulnerability and insecurity, giving the viewer an unusually rare and honest insight into his mindset at the time.
While Clayton’s picture is estimated to sell for considerably less than another untitled work on paper by the artist from 1982, which, according to artnet’s Price Database, changed hands for $13.6 million at Christie’s New York in May 2015, auction records show that the artist’s works on paper typically sell for above their estimate, so the U2 musician can expect to make a neat profit from the sale.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1982) will be on view as part of a global tour to Shanghai (February 8), Beijing (February 11-13), New York (February 24-26), and London (from 3 March) ahead of the auction at Christie’s King Street location in London.
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