Jean-Michel Basquiat and “The Last Hollywood Africans”

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Trudy Simpson writes that artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, “an artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage who is regarded as one of the world’s most celebrated contemporary artists,” was auctioned by prestigious auction house Sotheby’s last night (February 12) for millions of pounds. There will also be a an exhibition—The Last Hollywood Africans—featuring works by Basquiat, Toxic, and Rammellzee, which runs from February 15-24, 2013, at the LondoNewcastle Project Space in Shoreditch, London.

One of Basquiat’s pieces, called Untitled (Pecho/Oreja) was up for sale at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening, valued between £4.25 million and £6.25 million.

Sotheby’s, in its description of Basquiat, who died at age 27 in 1988, said the artist ‘drew from his ancestral background and racial identity to forge a body of work acutely conscious of its place in an almost exclusively white Western art history.’ The prestigious auction house added: ‘In this present work, the overlapping themes of black hero-worship, anatomy, graffiti, art history and death coalesce to form a cohesive composition rich in cultural commentary and autobiographical narrative.’

An exhibition which also features work from Basquiat, and fellow contemporary artists Toxic and Rammellzee, is also taking place from Saturday (February 15). The exhibition, called The Last Hollywood Africans runs from February 15 to next Sunday (Feb 24) at the LondoNewcastle Project Space in Shoreditch.

BasquiatBasquiat, a talented young black hip 1980’s ‘street’ artist who helped change the face of the art world, Toxic and Rammellzee called themselves The Hollywood Africans after objecting to negative stereotypes of black people in Hollywood films. The trio, who used spray cans and other material to shake up elitist notions of what constituted art, often collaborated together.

Each had their own strong following, particularly Basquiat, who wowed the art world and celebrities with his edgy creations. It earned him kudos from celebrated artists such as Andy Warhol and following from top stars and collectors, which continued after died at age 27 in 1988. Basquiat is the most well known but exhibition organisers pointed out that Basquiat often worked with rap musicians, artists and producers including Rammellzee and Toxic, whom he met through the 1980s Hip Hop scene.

Organisers said: ‘The trio became good friends and in 1982 the three of them travelled to Los Angeles, where they were struck by how backward the film industry was in regard to portrayals of African Americans especially during the 40’s and 50’s. ‘The only roles seemingly available were racial stereotypes and ‘Uncle Toms’. This led the trio to call themselves ‘The Hollywood Africans’ as social and political comment on that period… They pushed the boundaries of what was considered as art as they created artworks that were fresh and new, far removed from the realm of elitist galleries. They were outsiders and produced work that was as Toxic states, ‘on their own terms’. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/black-artists-work-be-sold-millions-sothebys

Image of  Untitled (Pecho/Oreja) from http://www.artdaily.com/index.asp?int_new=24690&int_sec=2

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