Isabelle Graw interview Basquiat

Isabelle Graw interview Basquiat

Isabelle Graw interviews Jean-Michel Basquiat for Wolkenkratzer Art Journal after he did non appear at the opening of his museum survey show at the Museum August Kestner in Hanover in 1986.

Isabelle Graw: Why didn’t you come to Hanover? I waited for you at the airport.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: I’m sorry about that. I wasn’t in a travelling mood.

IG: You are mistaken if you think that you upset anyone. By not coming you really only did everyone a favor.

JMB: I don’t think that’s true.

IG: Do you feel like talking about your paintings

JMB: Let’s just talk and get it over with.

IG: Is it still a problem to be black in America today?

JMB: Sure. You can’t get taxis. I go on the street, wave my and and they just drive past me. Normally I have to wait for three or four cabs. A few taxi companies tell their drivers not to pick up blacks.

IG: What will you do about it?

JMB: Nothing. Black taxi drivers drive past me too.

IG: You are the only black man to have become a very successful artist…

JMB: I don’t know if my being black has anything to do with my success. I don’t think I should be compared to black artists but with all artists.

IG: How did you become an artist? What is true about your legendary graffiti career?

JMB: I wanted to be an artist ever since I was three years old. I drew a lot. What came next has nothing to do with graffiti. I just had a big fan club. I started to paint when I had enough money to buy supplies.

IG: Why do you cross out words on your paintings and what does the ubiquitous copyright symbol mean?

JMB: I cross out the words to move them into the background a bit. I like the copyrights because they look good.

If I’m away from painting for a week, I get bored.
Jean-Michel Basquiat

IG: How do you work?

JMB: I start with a picture and then finish it. I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.

IG: Do you think drugs can help you?

JMB: (flaring up) Why do you ask me that? Did the people in Hanover tell you that? I don’t think my paintings look as if they were done under the influence of drugs.

IG: All the art critics see a mixture of Afro-Caribbean elements and Cy Twombly in your work…

JMB: I don’t listen to anything that art critics say. I don’t know anyone who needs a critic to find out what art is.

IG: Who are your favorite artists?

JMB: Very few. Franz Kline, Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg.

IG: How did your collaboration with Warhol come about?

JMB: It was very simple. I just had to push him, because he’s a bit lazy. He hadn’t drawn for twenty years.

IG: You don’t make life easy for your dealers. You have recently left Mary Boone…

JMB: I didn’t get on with her.

IG: Before that you made paintings in the cellar of Annina Nosei’s gallery…

JMB: I didn’t have a studio back then. She offered meher cellar to work in. The bad thing about this situation was that she sold paintings that weren’t finished. She said someone was interested in the painting and sold it despite in the painting and sold it despite my protests. I was young then, I’ve learnt a lot since then.

IG: Do you feel like a victim?

JMB: Yes.

IG: How are you going to protect yourself?

JMB: By seeing as little as possible of all these art people around me.

IG: Then why don’t you leave New York?

JMB: I get bored everywhere else.

IG: Aren’t you worried that you might run out of ideas and people won’t be interested in you anymore?

JMB: Sure. There’s nothing I can do about it.

IG: Is it true that your paintings have been selling at a discount recently?

JMB: I haven’t noticed any of that. I’m making as much as I was before.

IG: Should I come to New York before I write the article on you?

JMB: What would you do if the artist you were writing about were dead?

IG: I would do as much research as possible, get togheter all the available information…

JMB: Then just do it like that. Pretend I’m dead…