24 November 2023

On the canvas dated 1985, everything can be seen in triplicate: the tricolor flag which is gradually disintegrating, the Eiffel Tower which leans dangerously, even the frogs referring to the flagship of French gastronomy. EiffelTower is the result of a pas de deux between Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) and Andy Warhol (1928-1987). The shooting star of the 1980s and the peroxide pope of pop art merged, from 1984 to 1985, in more than a hundred canvases, their paw but also their temperament. The painting draws on the double Parisian memories of these Americans. Did Jean-Michel Basquiat imagine it after seeing the fireworks of July 14, 1985 from the Parisian apartment of filmmaker Diane Kurys? Or was the composition prompted by his friend Warhol, who, from 1977 to 1987, visited the French capital a good twenty times?

The mystery remains whole, even for Dieter Buchhart. From April 5 to August 28, the curator of the “Basquiat × Warhol, à quatre mains” exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris presents the collaboration between the two artists, which is as intense as it is tortuous. Jean-Michel Basquiat, a true phenomenon in the art world, has been the subject of numerous retrospectives in the capital. His relationship with the world of music will also be honored from April 6 to July 30 at the Philharmonie de Paris.

The American had made Paris his refuge. He crossed the Atlantic at least four times, between 1983 and 1988. At that time, the one who began his career in New York as a graffiti artist is already famous. Unlike many of his peers, Jean-Michel Basquiat does not need Paris to establish his legitimacy. Apart from a few insiders, few French people have met him. In the capital, the artist finds tranquility, plays the tourist, assiduously frequents the museums where the works of the great masters he likes are exhibited, such as Leonardo da Vinci or Henri Matisse. Star and anonymous at the same time.

New York boiling in Reagan’s America

The young man with a French surname – his father is Haitian, his mother a New Yorker of Puerto Rican origin – thus follows the route taken fifty years earlier by the American writers Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller. The times were then quite different. In the 1920s and 1930s, the City of Light experienced its golden age. Cultural life was then bubbling there, prohibition was not rampant there as in America and sexual freedom was more flourishing there. Black artists and intellectuals who fled racial segregation, such as Josephine Baker or the painter Lois Mailou Jones, found asylum in Paris. After the Second World War, several hundred men who had fought converged in art schools, taking advantage of a scholarship allowing former GIs to study in the United States or abroad.

You have 82.74% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *