Basquiat book in the works to feature unseen archives, art

An untitled artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Untitled (Pecho/Oreja)” on display at Sotheby’s auction house in London.
(Alastair Grant / Associated Press)

Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is back -- despite dying in 1988 at age 27.

On the first day it was open, more than 4,000 people turned out to see a show of his work at Gagosian Gallery in New York in February. His notebooks will be exhibited at Paris’ Musee D’Art Moderne next year. And in January, Sotheby’s auctioned some of his paintings; the one above, “Untitled (Pecho/Oreja),” sold for $10.6 million.

And now a Basquiat book is being planned by former girlfriend Alexis Adler, who is now a biologist, that will feature a trove of materials she has held onto for years. Basquiat and Adler dated from 1979 to 1980 and lived together in an East Village apartment; the place was a canvas for Basquiat, who painted on its door, a wall, and even the radiator. Adler later bought the apartment and never painted over it.

She also kept piles of his notebooks, the clothing he painted, and his postcards. It was one of those postcards, which Basquiat marched up and gave to Andy Warhol, that set him on the path to art stardom.


“Adler has enlisted Basquiat’s former assistant, Stephen Torton, to represent her in future sales, and she already has interest from filmmaker Sara Driver and art critic Luc Sante, a college friend of Adler’s who’s a good candidate to write an essay for the upcoming book,” ArtInfo reports, “and former Gracie Mansion gallery director Sur Rodney Sur has catalogued the 65 or so items in the collection.”

“The thing that’s most interesting is the material she has to support the actual artwork,” Sur told ArtInfo. That includes the script of a play he wrote and 50 rolls of 35mm film of his daily life and work. “When he was partnered with Alexis they were just a couple; no one then knew that Basquiat would become what he became. That’s why this work is so important .... These were very important explorative times for him, although his signature style was already formed.”

Adler has plans to sell some of the artworks; with a book deal, those of us who can’t afford to be collectors could see a rare side of Basquiat, too.

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