An aging artist. An emerging ingénue. An unlikely friendship – but one that defined the artistic age of 1980s New York City. A new exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton attempts to bottle that frenetic street art energy of Lower Manhattan and present the prolific artistic catalogue of two pop culture phenoms. From April 5 to August 28, “Basquiat x Warhol. Painting 4 Hands” explores the collaborative works of the two American artists.
Between 1984 and 1985, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol created around 160 paintings together. The exhibition will bring together more than three hundred works and documents including eighty canvases jointly signed by the two artists.
Their art pieces, which fellow Pop artist Keith Haring called “a conversation occurring through painting instead of words,” both juxtaposed and merged the fellow artists’ styles. Warhol would start off the canvas with a Pop art image of a product of logo which Basquiat would then deface with his neo-expressionist graffiti style.
“I think those paintings we’re doing together are better when you can’t tell who did which parts,” Warhol noted.
The exhibition opens with a series of portraits of Basquiat by Warhol and of Warhol by Basquiat then continues with the artists’ early collaborations. How did a merging of masterpieces between these two ever come to be? For that, we can thank their mutual art dealer, Bruno Bischofberger, for setting up a lunch meeting between the two creatives on October 4, 1982. Warhol, a longtime idol to Basquiat recalls, “I took a Polaroid and he [Basquiat] went home and within two hours a painting was back, still wet, of him and me together.” The painting, Dos Cabezas, ignited a friendship between them which led to their personal relationship and professional artistic efforts.
The show is further enriched with photos, including the famous “Boxing Gloves” series of photographs by Michael Halsband produced for the poster of the Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol exhibition in 1985.
Ironically, it was the 1985 exhibition of their joint works that led to the artists’ falling out – one from which neither recovered before their deaths in the late 1980s. On September 20, 1985, New York Times critic Vivien Raynor panned the collaboration, then installed at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York City, calling the show a version of the Oedipus story and referring to Basquiat as Warhol’s mascot. The friendship was doomed as soon as the words were hot off the press.
Heinz sight being 20/20, the Fondation Louis Vuitton intends for critics and visitors alike to see the collaboration between the two artistic heavyweights for what it actually was – the merging of two great minds making their mark – and significant social commentary – on issues that we still grapple with to this day.
The exhibition will show these dichotomies – a dialogue of styles and forms that tackles crucial subjects such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, inner versus outer experiences and the integration of the African American community into the narrative of North America.