Ron Rivlin, June 15, 2016
Sir Elton John sold an untitled painting by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat at an auction at Sotheby’s on May 31st. The collaboration, which was expected to be sold for $800,000-$1,140,000, ultimately cost $934,689 (£655,669).
Sir Elton John is an avid collector of art. He, along with his husband, has amassed a large collection that includes contemporary art by artists like Louise Bourgeois, Willem de Kooning, Gilbert & George and Tracey Emin. The piece originated from a partnership between Warhol and Basquiat that began in 1984. Initially, the Warhol, Basquiat and Francesco Clemente began sending paintings back and forth. Each artist added to the piece before sending it to the next. The canvas swap lasted for about a year, until Warhol and Basquiat began sending painting exclusively to each other.
The partnership, though somewhat successful, was short-lived. It ended in September 1985 with the opening of “Warhol and Basquiat: Paintings” at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. The collection of works drew mostly negative reviews, although some celebrate the paintings as a play of opposites. Warhol’s contributions where usually playful and iconic, while Basquiat’s portions tended to be more crude and cynical. Warhol commented, “paintings we’re doing together are better when you can’t tell who did which parts.” Regardless of the successful of their collaborative artwork, the partnership had many other benefits to the pair. Many believed that Warhol’s fame gave Basquiat a larger platform, while Basquiat, only 26 at the time, had a tradition of challenging the rules of the art world that gave Warhol a fresh perspective. Basquiat even reportedly inspired Warhol to return to canvas. According to Warhol, “Jean-Michel got me into painting differently, and that’s a good thing.”