Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Art rebels Basquiat, Schiele face off in Paris shows



Art rebels Basquiat, Schiele face off in Paris shows

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A staff member installs the label by an artwork of Austrian artist Egon Schiele at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. JACQUES DEMARTHON/afp

Art rebels Basquiat, Schiele face off in Paris shows

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-century Viennese 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.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An artwork by US artist Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. JACQUES DEMARTHON/afp

And on Tuesday night at the show’s private view, Hollywood star Owen Wilson 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 name-checked 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.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants