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It’s a mad world - Jean-Michel Basquiat

Article relating to an individual, 2012
Published by: Bonhams magazine
Year published: 2012
Number of pages: 4

image of It’s a mad world - Jean-Michel Basquiat

Feature on Jean-Michel Basquiat that appeared in Bonhams magazine, Spring 2012 (It’s a mad world: Jean Michel Basquiat, one of the most talented artists of his generation, died of a heroin overdose aged only 27. Adrian Dannatt investigates his talent and tragedy). The feature appeared on pages 34 – 37 and its title referenced a particular Basquiat painting titled Mad, 1987, signed with artist’s initials ‘JMB’ acrylic and oil stick on canvas, 86 x 68 inches,. Estimate $1,500,00 – 2,000,000 (£950,000 – 1,250,000.

The feature was written by Adrian Dannatt, a former child actor and subsequently an artist, art critic, writer, editor and journalist. This was a substantial text, lavishly illustrated with reproductions of the artist’s work (one of them a full page reproduction of Mad), an archival poster, and portraits of Basquiat, one of them with Andy Warhol. As referenced above, the piece drew attention to the substantial estimate $1,500,00 – 2,000,000 (£950,000 – 1,250,000 and began with a somewhat apocryphal tale of the shortsighted loss of “perhaps a million dollard”:

“Having lent his apartment to Jean-Michel Basquiat, a friend was horrified to come back to Manhattan to discover not a cache of drug paraphernalia or a cabal of squatters, but to find that the artist had covered every inch of his fridge with an elaborate and brilliantly hued painting. He was furious and screamed at Basquiat: “Get that cleaned off immediately! I’m giving you until tonight to get every bit of it off my fridge!” Thereupon the artist obediently set to work scrubbing away on his knees, removing all evidence of his art and every trace of our friend’s potential retirement fund, wiping out perhaps a million dollars.

If elements of Basquiat’s life story have become exaggerated in the telling, the mythology remains that of any truly major artist. Here is the perfect curve of precocious career and premature eclipse, the suffering and celebrity, poverty and prosperity, the early death, the trajectory from anonymous graffiti artist to the most famous painter of his generation.”

There then followed a appraisal of Basquiat’s life and work, before returning to a discussion of the Mad painting. “Mad is a striking, shockingly simple work of art, the clarity and balance of the composition, that one word and that one head with its dextrous clench of anger, is the summation of an entire aesthetic and tragically, of an entire life.”

Related people

»  Jean-Michel Basquiat

Born, 1960 in Brooklyn. Died, 1988

»  Adrian Dannatt

Born, 1963