Jean-Michel Basquiat

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37 x 29 cm, graphite on paper, ca. 1982

FUN Gallery in the East Village was a place where locals, b-boys, rappers and emerging rock stars blended with art historians, collectors, celebrities and museum directors. The gallery started off as a place for underground graffiti artists as an antipode to the rising rent prices and exclusivity of the loft gallery spaces in SoHo but soon FUN’s splendid openings attracted the artistic and intellectual New York elites. It was during the exhibition of Basquiat’s first solo show at the gallery in 1982 when he drew “CHURCHES”. Basquiat drew this quick sketch in the black book of the FUN Gallery while sketching outside the gallery space.

Basquiat drew almost anywhere and at any occasion he could, which is apparent through the expressive lines and spontaneous compositions. The three schematically outlined churches are indicated by crosses at the tops of the towers. There is also a crown at the front of one of the churches – a shape Basquiat adopted as a multivalent symbol in many of his artworks. The crown implies his intention to either acknowledge the people who influenced him, to depict his ambition to become a great artist one day or sometimes to make a commentary on the discrepancy between the divine and the material world. Basquiat likened the life of an artist and also the life of black people with martyrdom and symbolized this conception with the crown to honor them as kings and saints.