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  • Writer's pictureFlora

Basquiat x Warhol at the Louis Vuitton Foundation

We visited the Louis Vuitton Foundation earlier this year to see their exhibition pairing Claude Monet with Joan Mitchell. While somewhat thought provoking, the combination was a stretch. Now, the Louis Vuitton Foundation is presenting an exhibition with much more compelling personal history behind it — bringing us a staggering selection from the collaborative works of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.

Flora at Louis Vuitton Foundation
Flora at Louis Vuitton Foundation

This exhibit was a tremendous success. It reminds the visitor of what makes these two titans of American art so different and yet so explosive when brought together.

Starting point for the tour of Basquiat x Warhol in Louis Vuitton Foundation
Starting point for the tour of Basquiat x Warhol in Louis Vuitton Foundation

The entire show hums with the energy and verve of the city that played the backdrop to the friendship between these two artists. You can almost hear the sounds of New York City as you walk between the paintings. It seems there is no other place in the world that could have inspired them in quite the same way.

Basquiat disguised as a server at a restaurant
Basquiat disguised as a waiter

Basquiat painting of a waiter at a NYC restaurant
Basquiat painting of a waiter at a NYC restaurant

Today we are taking time to check out this wonderful exhibit and look at the history of the friendship between Basquiat and Warhol.

The Basquiat × Warhol Exhibition

Running from April 5 to August 28 2023, the show centers itself on the work that Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat created together between 1984 and 85.

They made somewhere around 160 paintings as a duo, giving the curators plenty to choose from. And to round out the selection, there are independent pieces by each artist as well as work by other New York icons from the 80s — including Keith Haring, Futura 2000, and others.

Untitled Jean-Michel Basquiat  1984, 294.6×419.7 cm
Untitled Jean-Michel Basquiat 1984, 294.6×419.7 cm

The show begins with portraits Basquiat and Warhol painted of each other, slowly melding into their first collaborative pieces.

Warhol presenting Basquiat as a strong David
Warhol presenting Basquiat as a strong David

Basquiat presenting Warhol
Basquiat presenting Warhol

Over the course of their collaboration, we can see why these two artists clicked so well. Warhol was an innovator. Decades before Basquiat came along, he’d totally changed what it meant to be an artist, making his persona as much a part of the art as the actual work.

Jean Michel Basquiat - Louis Vuitton Foundation exhibit

This served as an inspiration for the younger artist who yearned to create a similar place in the culture for himself.

picture of Jean Michel Basquiat in his creative process of painting

For the aging Warhol on the other hand, Basquiat was a breath of fresh air that must have revitalized his commitment to painting — evidenced by the sheer number of works they created together in such a short amount of time.

Picture of Warhol in his creative process of painting

Often, their collaborative pieces would start with Warhol creating an image all-too reminiscent of his output in the 1960s. The older artist brought his pop sensibility with brand logos or some other symbol from the visual culture of consumer capitalism. Over that, Basquiat would add the graffiti-inspired designs that turned the entire piece on its head, an approach that lay somewhere between vandalism and détournement. It proved a fantastic juxtaposition: mid-century Americana meets 80s street art. One could see the new generation fighting its way onto the canvas.

picture of Jean Michel Basquiat painting in collaoration with warhol General Electric Brand logo

As the collaboration went on, the duo found new ways to create. Sometimes, the two would begin together, or with Basquiat starting. But whatever they tried, it seemed that they found success. The undeniable chemistry absolutely shimmers across these pintings. They are works you really must see in person to fully appreciate the full scope of their vitality and urgency.

Tour Guides at Louis Vuitton Foundation

Tour Guide at LV Foundation
Tour Guide at LV Foundation

You’ll most likely want a tour guide to help you take in this sprawling exhibition. Luckily, the Louis Vuitton Foundation offers them for free, though they explain everything in French.

Mediatour / Tour Guide for the Exhibit Basquiat x Warhol at the Louis Vuitton Foundation
Tour Guide for the Exhibit Basquiat x Warhol at the Louis Vuitton Foundation

If you can understand French, it is well worth it. They will walk you through all the pieces and provide insights into the ways the two artists were both so similar and so different.

Mediator in front of pictures of Warhol Basquiat

A new tour departs every 15 minutes, so you never have to wait long to start!

Basquiat and Warhol: A Match Made in Heaven

In the early 80s, Basquiat was an artist on the rise. Coming out of his background in graffiti with SAMO© (made in collaboration with Al Diaz), he was now a growing name in the Manhattan art scene. He rubbed elbows with the likes of celebrities and future celebrities Debbie Harry (who was the first person to buy one of his paintings) and Madonna. At the same time, he was showing his work in major galleries next to the likes of Cy Twombly and, yes, Andy Warhol.

Though Basquiat had actually sold Warhol a postcard off the street in 1979, in 1982 they met formally at a lunch arranged by art dealer Bruno Bischofberger. Within two hours of the meeting, Basquiat sent over a portrait of Warhol he completed since they ate (you can see this piece in the Louis Vuitton Foundation exhibition).

Mediator in front of the first painting of Warhol / Basquiat by Basquiat
First painting of Warhol / Basquiat by Basquiat

A year later, Basquiat became Warhol’s tenant, moving into a space the older artist owned in NoHo. But it wasn’t until 1984 that they finally collaborated on artwork.

Though they found so much value working together, the two artists would sour on each other after their extraordinary collaboration. When their exhibition Paintings fell flat critically, the two found it harder to get along. It reminds us of so many artistic rivalries in the past that began with positive feelings but ended in a feud. And really, could it be any other way? What makes both Warhol and Basquiat such great artists is their uncompromising vision and force of personality. When first combined, it led to a proliferation of genius. But over time, it would always end up leading to conflict.

Warhol Boxing Basquiat

They managed to keep the friendship going in some form until 1987, when Warhol died after gallbladder surgery. Basquiat’s health deteriorated after this, in part due to mourning for his friend.

The next year, Basquiat died of overdose.

The legacy these two left behind, especially in their collaboration, has proven an indispensable element to the art world of the 1980s. It was a time and place where Warhol served as the elder statesman, the one in whose shadow the entire scene operated.

Warhol Clemnt Basquiat collaboration in Louis Vuitton Foundation

Basquiat served as the shining light, embodying the youthful genius of a new generation.

Basquiat painting Taxi, 45th/Broadway
Basquiat painting Taxi, 45th/Broadway

Visiting Basquiat × Warhol at the Louis Vuitton Foundation

The Basquiat × Warhol exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation is a can’t-miss opportunity to see the legendary collaboration between these two iconic artists. There might never be another chance to see so many of their pieces in one place.

visitor in Louis Vuitton Foundation in admiration of a painting of Basquiat Warhol collaboration

The exhibition beautifully captures the unique energy of their personalities and friendship, as well as the New York art scene of the 1980s.

Among so many works, we see the story of an important moment in history as well as a deeply personal unfolding of a friendship. For that reason, it helps us connect not only to the art but the people that made it.


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