Warhol and Basquiat: The Story of a Friendship in 1980s New York

One night in SoHo there was an encounter that marked the careers of two of the most important artists in the history of post-war art. This also marked the beginning of a friendship and one of the most prolific artistic collaborations.

In fact, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat did not have a simple artistic collaboration. Rather what was created between the two was a strong and intimate friendship that was often misunderstood.

New York nights in SoHo

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s career took off thanks to a meeting one night in 1993 with the king of Pop Art, Andy Warhol. Before, the young artist, Basquiat, made creative postcards in order to make a living from his art.

Basquiat approached Warhol one evening in a restaurant in SoHo under the false pretence of selling his postcards. Andy Warhol was struck by the talent of these tiny cards and the charming young Basquiat.

After this, Warhol took the young Haitian artist under his wing and introduced him to the world of art and New York’s most renowned galleries.

Certainly the king of Pop Art, Andy Warhol was instrumental in Basquiat’s career, but friendships with artists such as Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf also contributed to the creation of his work. Basquiat was even in a brief relationship with Madonna at the beginning of his career.

Entering Warhol’s Factory was the beginning of a bright and promising career for Basquiat that was cut short too early.

Along with his friend Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat is considered by many to be the father of Street Art. The two succeeded in elevating graffiti art to a full-fledged art movement.

Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat

The Warhol x Basquiat Partnership

The strong friendship and collaboration between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat resulted in one of the most important collaborations of the last century. The four-handed Warhol x Basquiat works would not only influence the two artists but also the art world.

Thanks to this artistic association, more than one hundred works were produced, within which the contribution of both artists is visible. This cycle of works was exhibited in a joint exhibition with the poster as the iconic photo of the two artists portrayed as the participants of a boxing match. This was a sport that Basquiat had always been passionate about and represented a way of life as the artist often compared boxing to the world of art.

Andy Warhol e Jean-Michel Basquiat - Box

In 1984, Warhol, Basquiat, and the Italian artist, Francesco Clemente started to make six-hand paintings. These were commissioned by Bruno Bischofberger and each artist painted without knowing what the others were painting.

The paintings by these artists thus became a kind of uninterrupted dialogue between two people whose artistic and personal backgrounds were quite different. Warhol was an important and established immigrant artist in America while Basquiat, belonging to the African American community, was a young and brilliant emerging artist. Despite the differences between the two figures, they had in common their unquestionable genius.

Andy would start a painting and put something very recognizable on it, or a product logo, and I would try to deface it. Then I would try to convince him to work on it some more. - Jean-Michel Basquiat

I think that in these paintings we are doing together it is better if you cannot distinguish the parts painted by one or the other. - Andy Warhol

In his works, Basquiat incorporated many expressionist traits, slogans and writings. His works were in fact based on instinctive and primitive art that blended with Andy Warhol's screen-printing and serial art.

Unfortunately, the collaboration between the artists was to be short-lived because in 1987, Warhol died, and just a year later Basquiat also died tragically of an overdose. Despite the untimely death of the cursed graffiti genius Jean-Michel Basquiat and the unexpected death of Andy Warhol, the artistic output of both is extensive and riddled with references to each other.

Rediscover the atmosphere of 1980s New York with works by Andy Warhol, Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf available at Deodato Arte!