Beginning in April 2023, the Fondation Louis Vuitton will present the exhibition Basquiat x Warhol, À quatre mains - illustrating the fruitful friendship between the two artists.
A few years after its exhibition devoted to the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Foundation Louis Vuitton is organizing a retrospective entitled Basquiat x Warhol, À quatre mains. A stylistic and formal dialogue, which promises to be one of the most exciting events of 2023.
Pas de deux on canvas
Their paths would have crossed for the first time in 1979 when the young artist was trying to sell postcards to the Pop Art master. The official introductions between Warhol and Basquiat took place three years later, through the gallery owner and collector Bruno Bischofberge. Two hours after this meeting, the rising star of the New York scene would have offered Warhol a painting, still wet, representing the two artists side by side. This painting, called Dos Cabezas (1982), is the starting point of a friendship that is both incomplete and deep, fertile but quarrelsome.
The following month, the creative duo began working on a series of paintings and works on paper. The ambitions of Warhol and Basquiat overlap: the former, a pillar of the artistic establishment, is in search of transfiguration, renewal, and candor. The second, freed from this coercive elitism, nevertheless aspires to a form of collective recognition. The world of the one exerts an undeniable ascendancy on that of the other. Basquiat's free figuration and uninhibited technique intrigued Warhol, who became an almost pontifical figure of contemporary art. This notoriety in turn fascinated the New York graffiti artist, who was just beginning to make a name for himself in the art world.
A father-son relationship
Thanks to Warhol, Basquiat was introduced to silk screening. The two artists listened to each other, observed each other, and painted in a groping intimacy. Their styles juxtaposed, then merged in common works: dear to Warhol, the symbols of industrial society and media iconicity were disfigured by Basquiat's crude and unpredictable approach. Together, they produced approximately 160 paintings, some of the most successful of their respective careers. During one of his visits to the Factory studios, Keith Haring observed, "Each inspired the other to excel. The collaborations were seemingly effortless. It was a physical conversation that took place in paint rather than in words. The sense of humor, the sarcastic remarks, the deep realizations, the simple chit-chat, all happened with paint and brushes." Their most famous installation remains Ten Punching Bags (Last Supper) (circa 1985).
Although their story comes to a tragic end with the untimely deaths of both artists within months of each other, Warhol and Basquiat leave behind a testamentary body of work, both individual and joint. The contours of an elective affinity, governed by mutual respect and admiration, are outlined. "I paint like Jean-Michel. I think the paintings we do together are better when you don't know who did what," Warhol said.
The most important exhibition ever devoted to the works of Warhol and Basquiat
In the spring of 2023, the Foundation Louis Vuitton will inaugurate Basquiat x Warhol, à quatre mains, a retrospective exhibition bringing together more than one hundred paintings created by the two artists. Curated by Dieter Buchhart and Anna Karina Hofbauer, the exhibition will also feature individual works by Warhol and Basquiat, as well as photographs by Michael Halsband dating from 1985. To capture the excitement of the New York downtown scene of the 1980s, the Foundation will also present the work of Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, and Kenny Scharf, a swarm of artists with multiple influences.
The exhibition will open with a series of cross-portraits: Warhol by Basquiat, and vice versa. Fifteen works from a collaboration with the Italian painter Francesco Clemente will also be unveiled to the public. Underlying these paintings will be the question of "the insertion of the African-American community into the North American narrative," the Foundation's curators said in a press release.