Art rebels Basquiat, Schiele face off in Paris shows

The Phnom Penh Post - - LIFESTYLE -

THOU­SANDS of Two new ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tions open­ing in Paris on Wed­nes­day coun­ter­point the work of a pair of art world rebels – Jean-Michel Basquiat and Egon Schiele.

Although the black New Yorker who be­gan as a graf­fiti artist and the early 20th-cen­tu­ryVi­en­nese painter came from very dif­fer­ent worlds and eras, both lived hard, died young and bat­tled their demons on can­vas.

“Their gaze goes right through us,” said Suzanne Page, the direc­tor of the Foun­da­tion Louis Vuit­ton stag­ing both ret­ro­spec­tives.

While Basquiat per­son­i­fied the re­bel­lion of the young New York street artists of the 1980s who stormed the grand gal­leries, Schiele’s erotic charge ex­ploded out of the city where Freud was chal­leng­ing taboos about sex and de­vel­op­ing his the­o­ries of psy­cho­anal­y­sis.

The heads and bod­ies they painted show “the hu­man be­ing from the in­te­rior to the ex­te­rior”, Page told AFP.

“Both were pro­lific and had pro­tean tal­ent, both were on mis­sions which went be­yond them, both worked in deep wa­ters,” she said.

Basquiat, who came from a mixed Haitian and Puerto Ri­can fam­ily, is now the most ex­pen­sive Amer­i­can painter ever, with one of his skull paint­ings sell­ing for $110.5 mil­lion (95 mil­lion eu­ros) in New York last year.

Art mar­ket ma­nia

It also holds the record price for an art­work cre­ated any­where since 1980.

That can­vas, “Untitled”, was bought by the for­mer Ja­panese pop star and in­ter­net ty­coon Yusaku Maezawa and is part of the Paris show of some 100 of his works.

A square in the French cap­i­tal was also named af­ter Basquiat last week­end.

And on Tues­day night at the show’s pri­vate view, Hol­ly­wood star OwenWil­son rubbed shoul­ders with foot­baller David Beck­ham and the painter’s fam­ily.

Such is the de­mand for his work that one-fifth of the 100 most ex­pen­sive paint­ings sold at auc­tion in the last year have been Basquiats, ac­cord­ing to the Art­price in­dex.

Basquiat died aged 27 of a drug over­dose in 1988 af­ter eight years of in­tense cre­ativ­ity af­ter Andy Warhol spot­ted his po­etic, provoca­tive and hu­mor­ous tags.

He had be­gun with an aerosol can in his na­tive Brook­lyn and lower Man­hat­tan as part of a duo called SAMO – their slang term for “the same old shit” of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety that they de­nounced.

Like Schiele he quit school early, and cu­ra­tor Di­eter Buch­hart said they also both shared a sharp “ex­is­ten­tial” line.

Although Basquiat has come to be seen as a pen­ni­less street artist rag­ing against racism, the artist who gets reg­u­larly namechecked by rap­pers such as Jay-Z ac­tu­ally came from a well-off fam­ily and went to an ex­pen­sive pri­vate school.

He was trilin­gual in Span­ish, French and English by the age of four and had haunted the Big Ap­ple’s mu­se­ums with his mother from an equally early age.

Coun­ter­cul­ture heroes

It was she who also gave him the anatomy book af­ter he was knocked down by a car at age eight that would be­come the mo­tor for his imag­i­na­tion, Page said.

“He was enor­mously cul­tured, high and low, tak­ing in ev­ery­thing. Young peo­ple from all cul­tures re­ally iden­tify with that,” she said. “Basquiat never lost con­tact with the street and mixed the two up.”

Schiele – also known for his raw, un­spar­ing self-por­traits – lived a year longer than Basquiat, dy­ing at 28 dur­ing the Span­ish flu pan­demic that was sweep­ing a war-weak­ened Europe.

The raw sex­u­al­ity of his work and his fo­cus on sex and death made him no­to­ri­ous and landed him in prison con­demned as a pornog­ra­pher.

His wife Edith, who was preg­nant, died three days be­fore him also of the dis­ease, and his fi­nal works were sketches of her.

Basquiat too “hardly had time to live”, French art critic Christian Noor­ber­gen told AFP. “But he chal­lenged art in ev­ery way, rag­ing against racism and all the con­for­mi­ties that crushed real life.

“His as­sault on cul­tural bar­ri­ers was stag­ger­ing, scary and sub­lime,” he added.

The shows, which are be­ing staged sep­a­rately at the Foun­da­tion Louis Vuit­ton, run un­til Jan­uary 14.


An art­work by US artist Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Fon­da­tion Louis Vuit­ton in Paris.


A staff mem­ber in­stalls the la­bel by an art­work of Aus­trian artist Egon Schiele at the Fon­da­tion Louis Vuit­ton in Paris.

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