Basquiat and Warhol: a collaboration between two art geniuses
Here is a report of how the collaboration between Basquiat and Warhol began and developed.
In 1967 Bruno Bischofberger acquired the option to become Warhol’s first dealer with a ‘right of first refusal’.
In the 1980s, Bischofberger championed key figures of the nascent Neo-Expressionist movements, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, Miquel Barceló, Mike Bidlo, George Condo, Enzo Cucchi, Dokoupil, Peter Halley, David Salle and Julian Schnabel.
In May 1982, after Basquiat leaves Annina Nosei Gallery, Bruno Bischofberger becomes his primary dealer.
A project had developed in Bischofberger’s mind to ask Andy Warhol whether he would make some works together with one or two younger artists that he represented.
In winter 1983-1984 (such asper precision, in February 1984), on the occasion of one of the many visits of Jean-Michel Basquiat at Bischofberger’s home in St. Moritz, they spoke together about works that artists had done together, so-called Collaborations.
At that time, Bischofberger asked Jean-Michel Basquiat whether he would be interested in doing some collaboration paintings with Warhol and perhaps another artist (such as Francesco Clemente). Basquiat was exceptionally receptive to new ideas and immediately agreed. He was surely also interested in creating works together with the famous Warhol.
Basquiat had already met Andy Warhol when Bischofberger proposed this collaboration. Bruno Bischofberger claims that he was responsible for the pair’s proper introduction.
“I took him for lunch to be photographed for a portrait,” Bischofberger told Tamra Davis. “Warhol photographed Basquiat with his special Polaroid portrait camera. Jean-Michel asked Warhol whether he could also take a photo of him, took some shots and then asked me to take some photos of him and Warhol together. We then wanted to go next door to have the customary cold buffet lunch. Basquiat did not want to stay and said goodbye.
One, at most one and half an hour later, when Basquiat’s assistant appeared with a 150 x 150 centimeters work on canvas, still completely wet, a double portrait depicting Warhol and Basquiat.“
The polaroid of Andy and Jean-Michel turned into “Dos Cabezas” – a masterpiece. “Andy said to me, ‘Oh, I’m so jealous!’, and I said, ‘Why?’. He said, ‘He’s faster than me!“
The rules were simple: each artist was to begin three separate paintings and one drawing each. They’d leave enough “mental and physical space” (Bischofberger’s words) for the other artists to contribute to the painting.
They’d then send their unfinished work on to the next artist kind of like the stories you’d write with your friends where someone would begin with a paragraph – sometimes stopping mid-sentence – and the next person would begin to tell their own story, apropos of nothing but their own imagination.
The three artists continued this experiment between them for about a year but in late 1984 Warhol and Basquiat began secretly collaborating on their own, thereby leaving Clemente out of the club for good.
During the Warhol-Basquiat collaborations, Warhol would usually be the one to (unsurprisingly) begin the painting. He’d often silkscreen a recognizable logo or product – something so typically him – onto a canvas, which Basquiat would promptly write or paint over, leaving his own mark on the work.
On Tuesday, April 17, Warhol mentioned in his diary “[Jean Michael] came up and painted over a painting that I did, and I don’t know if it got better or not“.
In 1984 and 1985, the two collaborated on a series of works that combine their distinctive styles in silkscreen and painting. This partnership of art titans was as prolific as it was innovative: their collaborations make up one-tenth of Basquiat’s total body of work.
– Ronnie Cutrone, Warhol’s long-time studio assistant
Bruno Bischofberger says in his reflections on the Experiences with Basquiat, Clemente and Warhol:
When I met Warhol in the Spring of 1985,on one of my almost monthly visits to New York, he revealed to me that he and Jean-Michel Basquiat had for several months been working together in the Factory on a large number of further collaborations.
He seemed a bit embarrassed, presumably because he and Basquiat had not mentioned it earlier to me. He also said that both he and Basquiat felt that I was not in a privileged position regarding these paintings, since they were not a commission of mine as the three-way collaboration had been. I had to accept his point
He immediately agreed, however, that as his and Basquiat’s dealer I was nevertheless the best suited person to be sold the paintings to and they entrusted me with them. He showed me a large number of these paintings – large scale works, most of which approximately 200 x 300 centimetres, some 300 x 500 or 600 centimetres, a few 200 x 150 centimetres – I was both extremely surprised and enthusiastic about them.
Warhol’s entire contribution was partly in a kind of poster style featuring heraldically hand painted enlargements of advertising images, headlines and company logos but partly in painterly free brushstrokes, similar to a part of his early works of 1961 and early 1962.
Basquiat was usually the second painter to work on the canvases and had fused his spontaneous, expressive and effusive iconography with that of Warhol. It was also surprising that Basquiat had used silkscreens for a large number of the paintings. In these works it was almost always Warhol who was the second artist to work on the paintings.
Basquiat and Warhol went on to make almost 200 works together. Bruno Bischofberger purchased a large group of them from the two artists and Basquiat, Warhol and Bischofberger decided to exhibit them in New York; their mutual choice was the gallery of Tony Shafrazi.
Warhol was especially interested in showing the collaborations downtown and not uptown because, as he put it, there was a livelier and younger art scene there.
The show was held at the end of September 1985, with sixteen of the paintings that Bischofberger had purchased and had given to Tony Shafrazi on consignment.
The critiques of the show were almost uniformly negative. The works were described by Vivien Raynor, on 20 September in The New York Times, as Warhol’s manipulations, and that he was using Basquiat as his mascot.
Below you can find a collection of works resulting from the collaboration between Basquiat and Warhol.