Between 1984 and 1985, artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol created around 160 paintings together, including some of the largest works produced during their respective careers.
A new exhibit in Paris is now dedicated to their prolific collaboration.
The two artists first met through their agent, art dealer Bruno Bischofberger.
In autumn 1982, Bischofberger brought 21-year-old Basquiat to 54-year-old Warhol’s workshop, known as The Factory, for a lunch meeting.
They first took some Polaroid photos of themselves, but Basquiat left before lunch with one of the photos.
About an hour and a half later, Basquiat’s assistant came back with a freshly-painted canvas “Dos Cabezas” (1982), a double portrait depicting Warhol and Basquiat, inspired by the photo they had just taken.
"I’m really jealous. He is faster than me,” Warhol said, astonished, according to Bischofberger, who commissioned their first collaboration.
"Warhol being, you would say, back in those days, a godfather in the city (of New York). He always knew what was going on in town," says guest curator says Anna Karina Hofbauer.
"This was an interesting meeting, of course, also for Basquiat. But Basquiat was celebrating his own rise, he was already rocketing up there. So, it was a very, as I said, and I think this is very important, mutual, respectful, equal relationship.”
Basquiat admired Warhol as an elder, an artistic personality, and the pioneer of a new language and groundbreaking relationship to pop culture.
“This collaboration is extremely significant in art history and that has many reasons," explains Dieter Buchhart, guest curator and a Basquiat and Warhol expert.
"On the one hand, it speaks so much to our time. It is like a remix, like two worlds coming together, but in a friendship, in a very respectful way. But they also created a dialectic room. So, this knowledge space they create together is incredible. But it’s like in our times: We take from anywhere, and we combine it with something totally different.”
Warhol, in turn, found in Basquiat a renewed interest in painting.
Thanks to him, he went back to painting manually on a large scale.
“$6.99”, for instance, is 297 centimetres by 410 centimetres (116 inches by 161 inches).
“When you look at the scale of the works, also like '$6.99' behind me, incredible," says Buchhart.
"This collaboration also wanted something. It was not just two great artists together, like Keith Haring and Basquiat, and they did a few works together, but that was it.”
Working from Warhol’s Factory on Broadway, the two artists would mix ideas onto canvases.
The longest of their joint works “African Masks” spans over 10 meters (32 feet).
Most of the time, Warhol would be the one initiating a painting, starting with a logo of an everyday product, such as Arm & Hammer’s baking soda.
From 1984 to 85, over 130 collaborative works emerged from the Factory.
Sixteen were presented at a dedicated show in September 1985 at Tony Sharazi’s gallery in downtown Manhattan.
As with most of Warhol’s works from that time, critiques for the show were unequivocally negative, putting an end to the two artists’ collaboration.
“This really hit both artists very hard and especially Basquiat," says Hofbauer.
"He distanced himself from this collaboration, in the sense of, it slowly stopped. I’m sure they finished the last works and initially ending up with the punching bags, which you see here in the exhibition."
Bringing together more than 80 paintings jointly signed by the two American artists, the exhibit also features some of their individual works as well as works by other major artists from the time, such as Keith Haring and Jenny Holzer.
“Basquiat x Warhol. Painting 4 Hands” will run from 5 April until 28 August at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.