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    Friday, June 15th, 2018

    Jean-Michel Basquiat – New York New York

    An early Basquiat masterpiece capturing the urban energy of New York’s cityscape comes up at Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale in London on June 26.  New York New York was painted in 1981 at the moment when his ground-breaking practice came to the attention of the international art world.   It has been in the same private collection in Italy for over 35 years and is estimated at £7-10 million. “I wanted to paint like the Lower East Side and what it was like to live there”  the artist said. The work narrates his transition from spray painting the streets of Manhattan to painting on canvas. Unconstrained by convention, his paintings on canvas and found objects of 1980-81 fully embraced the urban environment that surrounded him and speak the language of New York’s city streets.

    New York, New York was made for Basquiat’s debut solo exhibition, which took place at Galleria d’Arte Emilio Mazzoli in Modena, Italy in 1981. The show came about following the artist’s participation in the legendary New York / New Wave exhibition at P.S.1. in 1980 – an underground show at a rundown former school in Long Island that came to define a moment and was recently celebrated in the Barbican Centre’s Boom for Real exhibition. It was at P.S. 1 that visionary gallerist Emilio Mazzoli first encountered Basquiat’s work and subsequently set the wheels in motion for the artist’s international debut. The Italian show was named SAMO, after Basquiat’s street tag (an abbreviation for the phrase ‘same old shit’). The exhibition’s title marked the coming of age of the downtown graffiti-poet. This is one of the first of Basquiat’s works in which the three-pointed crown plays a central role. Basquiat’s shorthand for a long overdue ennoblement of black subjectivity in western art, the crown is repeated twice in this work, emblazoned in metallic-silver spray paint and flanking the left and right sides of the composition.